West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant has said that because the filing deadline for the 2010 election has passed, the special election to replace Robert Byrd will not be held until 2012. But get this — because Byrd’s seat would have been up in 2012 anyway, they’ll actually be two elections that year: one special election to fill the remaining few weeks of his term (until the new Senator is sworn in January 2013) and another election for a full six year term.
Here’s how Tennant explained it:
“The State Code is an interesting document. Within Chapter 3 that focuses on elections, there are several sections that determine how vacancies are filled.
“Section 3-10-3 states that for terms with more than two years and six months remaining, such as this one with Senator Byrd, the Governor will appoint a replacement who serves the unexpired term until a successor has been elected.
“But that election will not be the 2010 General election. Part of this same section of code, requires the candidate to have filed during the filing period. That filing period has already passed. There was a legal case in 1994 decided by the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals that up held that position of requiring candidates to file during the filing period.
“That means the election for the unexpired term would be the next election cycle which would take place in 2012. Candidates will be nominated in the primary and elected in the general of 2012.
“That brings up an interesting situation. Because Senator Byrd’s seat would have been up for re-election in 2012, both the position for the unexpired term and full term will be on the ballot at the same time but are separate races. In fact it will be two separate elections. With the unexpired race being a special election because it would otherwise not have been on the ballot.
“The winner of the unexpired term would serve out the final five weeks or so until the new term of Congress starts in January of 2013. Had Senator Byrd’s term not run out in 2012 there would not have been this unique situation. It would have just been for the unexpired term.