It seems that the Democrats in Massachusetts are about to amend the Senate succession law—revised at Democrats’ behest just five years ago—to allow the governor to appoint a seat warmer for Ted Kennedy until the special election can be held in January 2010. A voting-rights guru sends me this interesting observation:
Of course, Massachusetts governors used to appoint replacements until the Democratic majority in the state assembly changed the law in 2004 to require an election for purely political reasons—they wanted to avoid having Republican Governor Mitt Romney fill John Kerry’s seat if Kerry managed to get elected president. The irony is that while Ted Kennedy is being heralded today as a champion of the civil-rights movement and the Voting Rights Act, he was proposing something that would be impossible for state legislatures to do in Southern states covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. If Alabama or Georgia tried to change from an elected to an appointed process, the Justice Department would be up in arms and strenuously objecting under the preclearance provisions of the Voting Rights Act that require those states to get all of their voting changes preapproved by Justice. The Justice Department would consider such a change discriminatory and intended to negatively impact the rights of voters, particularly minority voters. But then Massachusetts is not covered by those special provisions that Kennedy championed, so acting in such an undemocratic and discriminatory manner in his home state to preserve the feudal holdings of his party’s leadership was perfectly acceptable.
One of the many instances of Kennedy-inspired rules—for the other guys.