U.S. Senator Jim DeMint talks on the phone in his office December 6, 2012 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Columbia, SC (WLTX) - A bill has been pre-filed at the State House that would change the way South Carolina fills its U.S. Senate vacancies.
Rep. Rick Quinn (R-Lexington) introduced the legislation Wednesday.
It calls for a special election to be held to replace a senator who leaves office, whether it's from resignation, illness, or death. Under the present law, the governor picks the new senator, and that person serves until the next general election.
Governor Nikki Haley is currently faced with that decision, as she mulls who will take over for Jim DeMint, who announced last week he is stepping down after eight years in the Senate.
"This proposed legislation is not intended in any way as a criticism of Governor Haley or any of the outstanding leaders she is apparently considering for appointment to the United States Senate," Quinn said in a statement. "I am certain they would all do a fine job. My concern is the lack of public involvement in the process of selecting a person to fill a vacancy in the United States Senate."
Quinn points out that under the current system, an unelected senator could serve two years before being put to a vote before the people. He said the decision to put that person in office shouldn't be left to just one person.
Quinn also said the current rule gives the person who fills the position a distinct advantage in fundraising and influence over any potential challengers.
"Unexpected vacancies happen from time to time," Quinn went on to say. "It's part of life. Any way we fill those vacancies will have flaws. But we must not dilute the people's right to choose their representation at the ballot box. It is a fundamental right in our American system of governance. "