CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The race to complete the term of the late Robert Byrd in the Senate is putting a little excitement into an otherwise dull political summer in West Virginia.
The primary election next Saturday comes exactly two months after his death.
The general election will come two months and five days after that.
Within five months of Byrd's death, temporary Sen. Carte Goodwin will be home and West Virginia will have its first newly elected senator in 26 years.
Why then did all the other candidates on the Nov. 2 ballot have to file for the office in January?
That's slightly more than nine months in advance of Election Day.
West Virginia's electoral process was adequate for life in the 19th century. But in the 21st century, events happen fast, and there is a need to move the primaries closer to Election Day.
That the filing deadline for the Legislature is before the end of the legislative session works out well for the elected, but it doesn't serve the electorate well.
A state senator who knows he will face no primary opposition in May - since candidates have to file in January - can do whatever he pleases during the session in January and February and March.
Voters will forget what he did by November.
But if the filing deadline for primary elections were sometime in June, and primaries were held in late August, public servants would have to watch themselves during the regular session.
Such a move would shorten the season and allow for the traditional start of the political season on Labor Day.
With the state's relaxed rules on early voting, no one's vacation is jeopardized.
Of course, incumbent legislators would grumble and mutter, which would be all the more reason to change it.
West Virginia's next senator will be one of four new senators who will be sworn in before January as they complete unexpired terms for senators who left office early for reasons ranging from election to the presidency to death.
A fifth, Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who was appointed to complete Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's term, is expected to roll over her Republican opponent. New York is as blue as the skies these days.