NJ Senate seat: hold election, appoint Dem until then

June 06, 2013, 12:29 PM GMT+0

If a Senator dies in office, most say a special election should be held to fill the seat and anyone appointed to it should be of the same party as the deceased

On Monday, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) died from viral pneumonia. To fill his now vacant seat, Chris Christie, New Jersey's Republican Governor, has chosen to hold a special election and will appoint a placeholder to the seat in the interim. On Thursday, it was announced that Christie appointed New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa, a Republican.

New research from YouGov shows that Americans agree with his decision to hold an election for the seat, instead of appointing someone for the duration of the term. But many also think that for the interim the seat should go to someone of the same party as the previous holder.

The vast majority of Americans (72%) prefer holding an election for a seat after a Senator dies, though are split on whether the seat should remain vacant until the election can be held or whether someone should be immediately appointed to fill it.

39% of Americans believe that a Governor should appoint an interim Senator to the seat until a special election can be held, while 33% say the seat should reamin vacant until the special election. Only 16% said that the Governor should appoint someone to serve the duration of the term.

As for who should fill the seat, more think that a Governor should be required to appoint someone of the same party as the previous holder. In this case, the Republican Christie would be required to appoint a Democrat.

Overall, 47% of Americans thought that a Governor should be required to appoint someone of the same party as the deceased Senator, while 33% thought that a Governor should be able to appoint whomever they wanted to.

There was one interesting twist in the data: while Independents usually fall somewhere between Democrats and Republicans in their support for measures, in this case they were the outliers. 56% majority of Democrats and 49% of Republicans agreed with appointing someone of the same party, while 38% of Independents did.

Legally speaking, the 17th Amendment, which established popular election of Senators, gives Governors the power to appoint a temporary representative to fill a vacant seat. Some states have specific laws on the matter. Alaska, Oregon and Wisconsin require the seat to remain empty until a special election, while Arizona, Hawaii, Utah and Wyoming effectively require an interim Senator to be of the same party as the deceased one.

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