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Voters, Not Governors, Should Select Senators Says Begich
Endorses Constitutional Amendment Changing Appointment Process


March 12, 2009

U.S. senators should be elected by voters in the 50 states rather than appointed by governors, said Alaska Sen. Mark Begich in testimony before a joint House-Senate hearing Wednesday on a constitutional amendment would end the gubernatorial appointment of senators.

In testimony before a joint hearing of the Senate Judiciary Constitution Subcommittee and the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties, Begich cited Alaska's experience when it elected a new congressman to replace his father who died while campaigning for re-election in 1972.

U.S. Rep. Nick Begich was killed in October 1972 when his plane crashed somewhere between Anchorage and Juneau. Alaskans selected his replacement in a special election in March 1973, rather than appointing a successor.

"Alaskans then - like Alaskans now - feel strongly that their elected representatives in the federal government should be exactly that ­ elected," Begich said. "The residents of my state believe that they alone have the power to select those who represent them in the United States House and Senate."

Begich also cited Alaskans' strong support for an electoral process in 2004 when they approved a statewide ballot initiative revoking the power for Alaska's governor to appoint a senator in the event of a vacancy. This initiative passed with nearly 56% of the vote.

"When balancing the relatively modest cost of a special election against one of the most fundamental principles of our democracy ­ the election of representatives of the people - I believe the expense is certainly justified," Begich said. "And as recent examples have shown us with drawn-out and controversial appointment scenarios, I believe the time required to mount a special election is far preferable to a gubernatorial selection."

For passage, the constitutional amendment needs two-thirds approval from the U.S. House and Senate. Following that approval the amendment would then be sent to the states. Three-fourths of state legislatures would need to ratify the proposal, following its approval from the U.S. House and Senate, in order for the amendment to be adopted.

In the last two years, six senators have been appointed to fill an empty seat through the process of gubernatorial appointment.


Source of News:

Office of U.S. Senator Mark Begich



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