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State’s Chief Elections Official to Testify Before Congress

March 10, 2009

MADISON, WI – Kevin J. Kennedy, Director and General Counsel of the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (G.A.B.), will participate in a Joint Congressional Hearing and testify before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary (Subcommittee on the Constitution) and the House Committee on the Judiciary (Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties), on Wednesday, March 11, in Washington, DC.

The subcommittee hearing, “A Constitutional Amendment Concerning Senate Vacancies (Senate Joint Resolution 2 and House Joint Resolutions 21)” will receive testimony from a number of speakers including members of Congress, academics, state and local government representatives and public policy organizations. Kennedy will share information on Wisconsin’s laws and procedures for conducting special elections to fill vacancies in the Office of United States Senator.

“Since 1913, Wisconsin has committed to filling vacancies in the Office of United States Senator by holding a statewide special election, and Congress wants to know about our long history of relying on special elections to fill these vacancies,” Kennedy said. “Our current practice dates back to the ratification of the 17th Amendment of the United States Constitution which provided for the direct election of United States Senators.”

Wisconsin has had 7 special elections to fill vacancies in office held by Members of Congress – the 3 U. S. Senate vacancies all occurred more than 40 years ago, and 4 vacancies in the Office of Representative in Congress which occurred in the last 40 years.

“We are proud of our system that enables Wisconsin voters to actively participate in determining their federal representative in the U. S. Senate, rather than delegating the selection to their Governor, even for a short period of time until a regularly scheduled election.” Kennedy said. “We are happy the federal government wants to hear our story.”

Kennedy will also share Wisconsin’s experience on the cost of conducting special elections. He will testify at 10:00 a.m. EDT on Wednesday. The Senate subcommittee is Chaired by Wisconsin’s Senator Russ Feingold (who contacted Kennedy to request input from Wisconsin). Wisconsin’s Congressional Representative F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr., is a House Subcommittee member.