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Lisa Madigan Sets the Stage for a Special Election

By Kevin Robinson in News on Feb 26, 2009 6:00PM

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan issued a legal opinion late Wednesday night that says it would be legal for lawmakers to move up the date of the Senate election to choose a replacement for President Barack Obama. The opinion paves the way, at least in theory, for the state legislature to force Burris to run as a candidate in a special election if he wants to retain the seat he was appointed to by former Governor Rod Blagojevich.

Madigan said in a statement: is my opinion that the legislature may pass a law allowing the people of Illinois to elect a U.S. senator to fill the seat vacated by President Barack Obama. Such a law would be consistent with the U.S. Constitution. The 17th Amendment expresses a clear preference for having the people of a state elect their U.S. senators. In keeping with the purpose of this amendment, the legislature may constitutionally change the current law to set an earlier date for the election to this U.S. senate seat. I am providing this opinion to offer guidance to the legislature as they consider this issue.

While Governor Pat Quinn has indicated that he would prefer a special election, state lawmakers, particularly Democrats, have said that a special election would cost the state millions of dollars. "I don't know the opinion paves the way for anything," said Steve Brown, spokesman for House Speaker (and the AG's father) Michael Madigan. "You have an appointment process in place for 130 years, and no one has really complained about it. The reality is it's $50 million. Does anyone suggest where we find that money? That's really the critical question." Phelon Rikeesha, spokeswoman for Senate President John Cullerton said "All we can say at this point is that we will review the opinion and current proposals for a special election. Cullerton is supportive of the concept...but favors full investigation of any wrongdoing by Burris before calling on him to resign or moving toward an election in this case. That said...we will consider the AG's interpretation of the 17th amendment."