Outside Editorial: The right call

A special election to replace Sen. Roland Burris if he resigns, which he should

Posted: Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Gov. Pat Quinn, D-Ill. added his name Friday to the growing list of people who have joined our call for Sen. Roland Burris, D-Ill. to resign. But he went a step further. If Mr. Burris does give up the Senate seat, Mr. Quinn would fill it with a temporary appointment until the state legislature passed a special elections law. That's the right call.

Mr. Quinn's predecessor, Rod Blagojevich, D, was removed from office in January after he was arrested in December for, among other things, allegedly trying to auction the Senate seat. Mr. Blagojevich used his power of appointment to install Mr. Burris. And now Mr. Burris' hold on the seat once occupied by Barack Obama is increasingly tenuous after he acknowledged that he tried to raise money for Mr. Blagojevich while vying for the appointment. That revelation contradicted the senator's earlier statements. In fact, with each successive utterance, Mr. Burris further undermines his insistence that he was forthcoming from the start.

Gubernatorial appointments to fill U.S. Senate seats are undemocratic and, in extreme cases - i.e., in Illinois - ripe for corruption. A special election would give the power to fill a vacant Senate seat to the voters. But this will require a change in state law, something the Democratic-controlled legislature shied away from last year for fear of losing the seat to a Republican. Mr. Quinn's support of special elections should bolster lawmakers' courage to get it done when the time arises.

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