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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Tucson suffers from lack of legislative remedies

It has been almost six months since the Jan. 8 shooting. Since then, recovery stories and dedication ceremonies have rolled in. By now we have all felt touched and overjoyed to see the photographs of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ smiling face. Nonetheless, no official word has come regarding the completion of her recovery or her possible return to office. Of course, her family and office have been very mum on the subject, and honestly who can blame them? Despite Giffords’ incredible recovery, she still seems to have a long way to go, leaving a considerable part of Tucson hanging in the balance without representation.

While Giffords breathtakingly battles to get back to a healthy state, there seems to be little that can help the predicament many Tucson citizens are left with.

Currently, the only document that holds any relevance to such a problem is the Constitution, and even that doesn’t solve the matter. Article I, Section 2 supplies a remedy should a vacancy be declared in a congressional seat. It reads, “”When vacancies happen in the Representation from any State, the Executive Authority thereof shall issue Writs of Election to fill such Vacancies.”” However, vacancy can only be declared in the event of death, resignation or removal from office by way of impeachment. To clarify, I’m not suggesting a vacancy be declared on the Giffords’ seat. Thus, legislation can’t provide a therapy to the absence of representation.

It becomes clear, though, that something must be done to fix this issue. The suggestion here is not that Giffords resign, or her seat be vacated, but rather that some sort of legislative addition, or amendment be made to either House or Senate rules.

It is not as though assassination attempts on elected congressional officials have never occurred. There have been multiple documented attacks on the lives of congressional members. Of the assassination attempts that left members wounded, their seats remained vacant until they returned, as will likely be the case for Giffords. It still begs the question: If this has happened before, why has no safety net been established to prevent a lack of representation? While some may say that the empty seats left in the meantime serve as a reminder, or a symbol, it doesn’t change the fact that it is hindering the true functions of representative government.

The right to representation is simply and unequivocally fundamental. It is not a coincidence that we have seen it mentioned in the Virginia Declaration of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. While Giffords is most certainly entitled to her time when she is ready to return, a point which nobody argues against, a resolution ought to be established until she is ready to resume. Essentially, there needs to be someone to serve in the interim.  

Unfortunately, there seems to be no plan to create any such legislation. Until the time that either Giffords is healthy enough to return or an acceptable solution is found, the citizens of Tucson will continue to be devoid of representation at the federal level.

­—Storm Byrd is the Summer Wildcat perspectives editor. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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