"Her analysis, we believe, gives insufficient weight to the dictates of the 17th Amendment," McGraw's opinion states. The 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides for the public election of U.S. senators.
Tennant's interpretation of the law, the opinion states, "creates a situation which, while perhaps not absurd, would certainly be awkward and unintended: Two elections in November 2012, one to fill a Senate vacancy of [by then] a few weeks, and another for a full term of office."
Quoting a 1964 U.S. Supreme Court decision, McGraw's opinion states, "We begin and end with the fundamental proposition that "no right is more precious in a free country than that of having a voice in the election of those who make the laws under which, as good citizens, we must live. Other rights, even the most basic, are illusory if the right to vote is undermined."
The opinion does not specifically call for any action by the Legislature to revise state election laws.
However, McGraw states that the attorney general's office stands ready to work with the executive and legislative branches regarding any procedural issues that may arise "in light of the shortened time frames for a special election."
In the opinion, the attorney general states that, in additional to having authority to call the special election, the governor has authority to set filing deadlines for candidates, as well as all other election procedures.
Legislators were being contacted Thursday to determine their availability for a special session to begin on July 14, sources said.
A special session previously had been tentatively set to begin on July 19, to coincide with regularly scheduled July legislative interim meetings.
Reach Phil Kabler at ph...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.