Attorney General Madigan issues opinion to cut Burris's term short with special election

It 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.”

— Illinois Attorney General's Office

The Illinois General Assembly can constitutionally pass a law that moves up the date of the next election for President Barack Obama's former Senate seat, said Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

State Republicans sought Madigan's opinion, issued late Wednesday night, which came as controversy swirls around Sen. Roland Burris' appointment.

Voters are scheduled to pick Obama's successor in a February 2010 primary and November 2010 general election. But the state GOP wants a May 26 election -- effectively kicking Burris out of he doesn't win.

Neither the U.S. Constitution nor the Illinois Constitution would prohibit moving up the election, Madigan said.

"Indeed, a law providing the people of Illinois with an opportunity to elect a U.S. Senator would be entirely consistent with the purpose and the text of the 17th Amendment," Madigan said. "That amendment announces a clear preference for selecting U.S. Senators by direct popular election."

"A temporary appointee to the U.S. Senate has no right that prevents the General Assembly from passing legislation to enable the people to elect their U.S. Senator," she said.