If the appointment of Roland Burris to the United States Senate does anything to change history, it’ll be in the realm of Gubernatorial appointments of United States Senators. I’m pretty sure the Feingold Amendment won this topic won’t pass by 2011 (although a variant of it with appointments for a period of a few months until an election would be a good idea for consideration).

The Missouri General Assembly Republicans are taking Russ Feingold’s idea in another direction with House Bill 681 sponsored by Jason Smith and Speaker Ron Richard which strips Jay Nixon of his ability to appoint replacements for statewide elected officials in favor of holding special elections.

Now, the fact that the Secretary of State’s office may be vacated if Robin Carnahan is elected to the United States Senate in November 2010 would have nothing to do with this, right Jason (and Mr. Speaker)?

If this bill somehow becomes law and Robin Carnahan is elected to the Senate on November 2nd, 2010. Then the likely solution would be to spend a hefty sum of money on holding a special election around the spring of 2011 (perhaps with the ad season being during March Madness, when MU fans are preoccupied with cheering on their team and/or laughing as KU makes another early exit). So a special election for around 20 months of a term would likely have pretty meek turnout. Especially when one considers that the office of Secretary of State is only more interesting to voters than Auditor and Treasurer.

So, spending thousands on a low-turnout special election in Spring 2011. Or appointing a replacement and having an election in November 2012. Which one costs less money and which one do the self-proclaimed fiscal conservatives of the Republican General Assembly support? (Let’s just say that those two questions don’t have the same answer)

In the scheme of things, special elections aren’t an awful idea to fill a statewide office. If a statewide office is vacated within the first 18 months or so of the term, someone can be appointed and a special election is held in November at the middle of the term, then that’s fine.

But when you consider the strong likelyhood that any statewide official would leave office after the midway point of their term, this idea would lead to holding low-turnout special elections and spending thousands on that election, instead of on the laundry list of things that need state attention.

When it comes to the offices effected by this law, the last one to be left open that could have reasonably been filled by a special election would be the Secretary of State’s office in late 1994 (after the impeachment and conviction of Judith Moriarty). So in that case, there would have been a special election in early 1995. There aren’t many examples of statewide officeholders leaving office in the first 18 months of their term (there’s probably an example after the 10 month term of Attorney General Robert Otto in 1925)

Also, one can’t help but smell the odor of blatant partisanship in this bill.

If Kenny Hulshof was Governor and Robin Carnahan was running for the Senate, this bill wouldn’t be getting support from the gatekeepers of the Republican General Assembly. That’s a guarantee.

When Matt Blunt was Governor, a bill like this wouldn’t have been endorsed by the Republican House leadership. That’s a guarantee. Heck, when Matt Blunt was Governor, the people who like special elections so much nowadays kept their mouths shut as Blunt allowed for a state house seat to lay vacant for the entire 2008 session.

Now, before one sincerely (or insincerely in the case of the HB681 sponsors) shouts out against the idea of one person picking someone for an office. Keep in mind that special elections procedure would likely leave out primary elections in favor of party nominations. So keep that in mind. The special election machinery in Missouri not like Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, or Georgia.

In case this bill passes both houses, I recommend the usage of the industrial-sized veto stamp by Governor Jay Nixon.