Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Alaska's Ground Rules For Special Elections To Replace U.S. Senators And Representatives; First, A Temporary Appointment, Then A Special Election

The possible scenario of Alaska U.S. Senator Ted Stevens getting elected on November 4th, then promptly resigning his office has generated considerable discussion on how he would be replaced. Even otherwise well-informed individuals like KFQD conservative shock jock Dan Fagan are spreading misinformation about the process. Fagan mistakenly opined that the position would remain vacant until after the special election.

The fact is, replacement of an Alaskan U.S. Senator or U.S Representative who resigns or dies in office is a two-step process. First, the governor would appoint a temporary replacement to cover the seat so we would not be unrepresented. Then, within a certain time, a special election would take place so Alaskans can choose a permanent replacement.

Two statutes define the process.

AS 15.40.145. Temporary Appointment of United States Senator: When a vacancy occurs in the office of United States senator, the governor may, at least five days after the date of the vacancy but within 30 days after the date of the vacancy, appoint a qualified individual to fill the vacancy temporarily until the results of the special election called to fill the vacancy are certified. If a special election is not called for the reasons set out in AS 15.40.140 , the individual shall fill the vacancy temporarily until the results of the next general election are certified.

AS 15.40.140. Condition and Time of Calling Special Election: When a vacancy occurs in the office of United States senator or United States representative, the governor shall, by proclamation, call a special election to be held on a date not less than 60, nor more than 90, days after the date the vacancy occurs. However, if the vacancy occurs on a date that is less than 60 days before or is on or after the date of the primary election in the general election year during which a candidate to fill the office is regularly elected, the governor may not call a special election.

The references cited above have not been updated since 2004. Consequently, new or revised statutes since then are not included. I have checked the latest available list of statutes, which are more cumbersome to use, and have verified that the language of the two statutes listed above HAS NOT CHANGED.

This should resolve the questions regarding Alaska's special elections process.


  1. can sarah palin appoint herself as senator?

  2. I am not from Alaska, but I am curious if she could. I would like to see that to add another conservative to the Senate. I am from Illinois and we are about to go through the same process. Rumors have Jessie Jackson Jr. (whoopee) replacing "The One". Any Alaskan have the answer? Thanks, Bob

  3. Last night on the Rachel Maddow show on MSNBC, Rachel specifically said Sarah Palin may not appoint herself to replace Ted Stevens.

  4. Who is Rachel Maddow? what are her sources? is it just wishful thinking on her part? Thanks, Bob from IL.

  5. Rachel Maddow is a Rhodes Scholar with a Doctorate in Political Science.

  6. She's also a commentator on MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show ..the highest debuting political program in the networks short history. She and Olbermann are kicking Fox's hind end in the ratings. .