Robert Byrd’s Senate seat is up for grabs, but it’s unclear when the public will get to decide who fills it. For now, Gov. Joe Manchin, a Democrat, will appoint an interim successor. But then things get interesting. At first glance, we’re headed for a November showdown: West Virginia law states that if a vacancy opens at least 2 years and 6 months before the end of a Senator’s term, then a special election will be held. Byrd died 2 years, 6 months and 6 days ahead of the end of his term.
But there are a couple of potential complications. First, Manchin may have up to 10 days to declare an official vacancy, Nate Silver notes at FiveThirtyEight, allowing him to wait until after those six days have elapsed. And even if he doesn’t, the law also states that the special election will be held only after a primary, the Washington Post points out. Since West Virginia has already held its 2010 primary, Democrats could argue that the election must wait until the next one in 2012.