Election Law

Election Law

Filling U.S. Senate Vacancies in Vermont: Replacing Bernie Sanders Is Harder Than It Seems


Tyler Yeargain | Associate Director, Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy

February 15, 2021

What if things had gone differently in 2020? There are countless ways to present the hypothetical—what if Pete Buttigieg had won Iowa outright, and walked away from the caucus with momentum?[1] What if Joe Biden hadn’t been endorsed by Congressman Jim Clyburn just before the South Carolina primary, preventing him from securing a landslide win in the state?[2] What if Elizabeth Warren hadn’t delivered a knockout blow to Mike Bloomberg on the debate stage, allowing his campaign to finish strong?[3] What if any of these things happened, resulting in Vermont’s own Bernie Sanders as the Democratic nominee for President in 2020? And what’s more—what if he won? Instead of the mittens memes from Inauguration Day,[4] we would’ve instead been gifted with countless meme-able moments from Bernie’s inauguration speech.

We also would’ve been confronted with a particularly sticky problem: how to replace Bernie in the Senate. Because the current Governor of Vermont, Phil Scott, is a Republican, he could’ve appointed a Republican as Bernie’s replacement. (He promised not to,[5] but he would’ve been under no obligation to keep that promise.) That could’ve shifted a 50–50 Democratic Senate to a 51–49 Republican Senate, at least until a special election could be held.

Read the full post here.


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