Election to the Senate

Louis C. Wyman (RNew Hampshire) was declared the victor of the US Senate contest in 1974 in New Hampshire by a narrow margin on Election Day (355 votes). A first recount gave the election instead to John A. Durkin (DNew Hampshire) by ten votes, but a second recount swung the result back to Wyman by only two votes. The state of New Hampshire certified Wyman as the winner, but Durkin appealed to the Senate, which had a sixty vote Democratic majority. The Senate refused to seat Wyman while considering the matter. After a long and contentious debate in the Senate, with Republicans filibustering attempts by the Democratic majority to seat Durkin instead, a special election was held, with Durkin winning handily and becoming Senator.Wikipedia

I suppose the 1974-1975 debate over seating a Senator from NH took place in the newly elected Senate . Democrats were in the majority before and after the 1974 election; Mike Mansfield (D-MT) was the Majority Leader during both sessions.

The 1974 precedent–a special election to settle a near tie–seems good to me. The filibuster rule contributed played an important role. Under different circumstances, the precedent might not hold.

  • The lame duck Senate in 2020 will know how the 2020 election went.
  • McConnell is ruthless, but it isn’t clear to me what he might do to cling to power if Republicans don’t have a clear majority in the new Senate.
  • The new Senate will adopt rules and choose a leader. Does the former leader retain the position until a new leader is chosen? Could newly elected Senators be excluded from these votes, or defeated candidates be allowed to vote?
  • In 1974, there was no dispute over election procedures–hanging chads, mail-in ballots, illegal voters.
  • Might there be another lengthy debate over seating; might one party or the other appeal to the courts?
  • If there were a tie in the Senate, the Vice President would cast the deciding vote.

An unprecedented partisan outcome would be bad for democracy.

About whungerford

* Contributor at NewNY23rd.com where we discuss the politics, economics, and events of the New New York 23rd Congressional District (Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Chemung, (Eastern) Ontario, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben,Tioga, Tompkins, and Yates Counties) Please visit and comment on whatever strikes your fancy.
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