Empire editorial: Time to let voters fill Senate vacancies

Posted: Thursday, October 28, 2004

We can't blame Alaskans for having a bad taste in their mouths, left over from Gov. Frank Murkowski's choice to succeed him in the U.S. Senate. Regardless of what you can say about Sen. Lisa Murkowski - and there are many good things to say - she is the governor's daughter. Such appointments always will raise eyebrows. Alaskans deserve a system they can trust, and that trusts them.

Who is to say that special-election voters pleased with the elder Murkowski's Senate performance wouldn't have chosen his daughter to carry out his mission?

Ballot Measure 4 seeks to conduct a special election whenever a Senate seat comes open before a senator's term has expired.

It cannot be argued that elections are bad for democracy. Allowing voters to choose their senator each time an opening occurs broadens and reaffirms democratic participation. Voters should approve this measure and give themselves more power.

In an unsuccessful attempt to keep the initiative off the ballot, Legislators approved a law requiring special elections within 90 days of the vacancy, but giving the governor power to appoint an interim senator. While an improvement on the previous system, this scenario still unnecessarily gives the governor power to bypass voters, while giving his or her appointee a head start in the election.

Alaskans of all political stripes need to know their representatives are chosen to reflect the will of the electorate. Conducting elections is the only way to ensure that.



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