CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A special election to complete U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd's term cannot be held until 2012, Secretary of State Natalie Tennant said Monday.
"That election will not be the 2010 general election," she said during a late-afternoon news conference Monday.
That means Gov. Joe Manchin can appoint someone to fill Byrd's seat, and that person will hold the seat until the election in November 2012.
Tennant said staff attorneys reviewed state law (W.Va. Code 3-10-3) regarding U.S. Senate vacancies, as well as a 1994 state Supreme Court decision. They concluded that it's too late to have a special election for Byrd's unexpired term to coincide with this year's general election on Nov. 2.
"That means the election for the unexpired term for the U.S. Senate will be the next election cycle, which is 2012," she said.
State law states that if there is more than two years, six months remaining in an unexpired term, there is to be a special election to fill the vacancy, she said.
However, the law also says that candidates for the unexpired term are to be nominated in the first primary election after the vacancy occurs.
Tennant said that since no candidates had filed in the May 11 primary for what turned out to be an unexpired term, the law states that nominees for the unexpired term are to be selected in the May 2012 primary, with the special election to take place during the November 2012 general election.
Byrd would have been up for re-election in 2012, so anyone running for the unexpired term would probably also run at the same time for the full six-year term that begins in January 2013, she said.
Tennant noted that the primary deadline for candidates to file for unexpired terms was upheld by the state Supreme Court in 1994, in a case involving Gov. Gaston Caperton's appointment of Irene Berger to fill a vacancy on the Kanawha Circuit Court.
Berger was appointed in April 1994 to a term that was to expire in December 2000.