As the news of the death of California Sen. Dianne Feinstein spread, questions about who will fill her Senate seat began to swirl.
What is the process to replace a senator who has died? Here’s what we know about it:
In 46 states, the governor of the state has the power to appoint a temporary replacement — a person who will fill the seat until the term of the person who died is up. The appointee serves until the next statewide general election is held and the winner in that election serves out the remainder of the term.
In Feinstein’s case, her Senate seat is up for election in 2024, with the term beginning in January 2025.
She had announced she would not run for re-election and several candidates have declared they will run for the seat.
A governor may appoint whomever they please to fill the seat, usually filling it with a member of their own party, according to Ballotpedia. As Feinstein grew more frail and was ill in the past few months, California Gov. Gavin Newsom vowed to appoint a Black woman to fill her seat, should it be necessary.
Thirteen of the 46 states require that a vacancy be filled in a special election within a specified period of time. Of those, each state has specific rules detailing whether an interim gubernatorial appointment is to be made and when the special election must be held.
California sets no restrictions on how long it will take to fill the seat.
The system for filling vacant Senate seats dates to the ratification of the 17th Amendment in 1913, the Pew Research Center reported.
The amendment gave states the option of letting their governors appoint temporary replacements. The only states not to do so are North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island and Wisconsin; in those states, vacancies can only be filled by special election.