Florida Senate vacancy process a reminder of messiness of appointments

by Rob Richie // Published August 27, 2009

As the nation tumbles into a debate about whether the Massachusetts legislature should reverse its overwhelming votes of 2004 and 2006 that approved and then upheldf having special elections to fill U.S. vacanices, Florida should remind us of just how messy appointments can be.

Over at Daily Kos, Steve Singise writes that Gov. Charlie Crist is having trouble finding the right person to serve the remaining 17 months of Mel Martinez' term. With Crist running for the office himself next year, finding just the right person who will be competent, but not decide to run as well, isn't easy - particuarly when part of your calculation is seeing if your appointment will help you politically.

Appointments aren't the answer - elections are, as our founders well knew when requiring elections for U.S. House vacancies. Looking at Massachusetts and Sen. Ted Kennedy's long illness -- and also to West Virginia, where Sen. Robert Byrd has largely missed 2009 -- it was no surprise that his seat would become vacant. The special election law should be constructed such that a sitting Senator can announce when he or she is going to step, have the election season start, and then have a relatively seamless transition with the new person being seated very soon after the seat becomes vacant. But let's not cheat democracy.