Something is not quite right in Springfield—as usual. The cry for Senator Burris to resign his newly acquired post is growing louder by the hour. On Friday, the new Illinois Governor, Pat Quinn, called for Burris to step down. It seems he had more contacts with Gov. Blago and staff about a Senate appointment than he revealed to the panel that impeached the previous Governor.
There appears to be mass confusion among political leaders as to how to handle the situation. Quinn is asking the Legislature to pass a law allowing a special election. Speaker Mike Madigan, according to the Chicago Tribune is hesitating to ask for a special election due to the high cost during a time of recession.
A Chicago Tribune editorial tells us that,
“Two measures aimed more or less in that direction are in the pipeline—one authored by Republicans, one by Democrats, each shaded accordingly. Lawmakers need to pass one quickly, before the next time we have a Senate vacancy. Which will be very soon, if Roland Burris does the right thing.”
As a Constitution fundamentalist, it seems to me, the whole problem was created and continues to percolate either because Democrats fear a special election, or no one in Springfield understands the plain English of the Constitution. In fact, the fight over the Senate appointment and the consequent results is a classic example of what happens when our elected officials ignore their oath of office, or are not familiar with the Constitution they swore to uphold.
In the event of a Senate vacancy, the Constitution demands the Chief Executive of the state to call for a special election to fill the vacancy. In addition, the State Legislature may, by statute authorize the Governor to appoint a temporary replacement to serve until the results of the special election is determined.
When vacancies happen in the representation of any State in the Senate, the executive authority of such State shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies: Provided, That the legislature of any State may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct.
~Amendment Seventeen, U.S. Constitution
As we have pointed out before, the command “shall” is used in reference to a special election and the permissive “may” is used in reference to a temporary appointment. Almost four months have now passed since Obama was elected President and the people of Illinois are no closer to having full and competent representation in the U.S. Senate today than they were then.
The Senate seat belongs to the people of the state of Illinois, not to the Democratic or Republican Parties. We have had only one full-time Senator in Washington for the past two and a half years. Obama was a part-time Senator and full-time candidate for President since he announced in ‘07. It is time for Roland Burris to hand in his resignation, and It is time for Illinoisans to demand a special election be held to fill the Seat, in accordance with the requirements of the Constitution.
We do not need a new law, and we do not need a new amendment to the Constitution, as some have proposed. What we need is politicians familiar with the Constitution and willing to follow its requirements, regardless of which party wins an election.