The controversy over Sen. Roland Burris' appointment to Illinois'
junior senate seat may seem like a lifetime ago. But a group of
well-known local attorneys is making a last-ditch effort to force Gov.
Pat Quinn to call a special election, thus giving the public the final
The controversy over Sen. Roland Burris' appointment to Illinois' junior senate seat may seem like a lifetime ago. But a group of well-known local attorneys is making a last-ditch effort to force Gov. Pat Quinn to call a special election, thus giving the public the final say about who represents them.
Today, former alderman Marty Oberman led the oral arguments for his team of co-counselors -- which includes Tom Geoghegan, Scott Frankel, and Rob Cohen -- in a federal appellate court. The appeal is based on the same case that the team argued before U.S. District Judge John F. Grady earlier this year. Regular readers may recall that the challenge was an effort to force Quinn to issue a “writ of elections," which would trigger the General Assembly to set a special election date.
The gist of the case, Oberman tells us, is that the 17th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution was crafted to guarantee the electorate's right to choose its representation democratically. That, the plaintiffs argue, usurps state law, which grants the governor appointment powers.
"The purpose of the 17th Amendment was to have popular elections of senators," Oberman argued in court today. "It wasn't to have appointments."
Moreover, Oberman argued today, appointments are intended to be temporary; therefore, a special election needs to be called before, not upon, the end of a term. He explains the significance to WBEZ:
There's no more important right in a democracy than the right to vote for the people who are making decisions for you. And in Illinois one of our Senate votes is sitting there not having been elected, but having been appointed.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office, which is defending the governor, is standing by the favorable lower court ruling. Only time will tell if it stands. Stay tuned.