West Virginia law states the governor can appoint a replacement if 30 months of the term have been completed, or call for a special election to be held if less than 30 months were served.
However, political and legal experts are uncertain about what will happen next because of some ambiguity in the law and because Mr. Byrd passed away five days short of the 30-month point.
His term ends in January 2013, and the appointee will almost certainly be a Democrat, which would not impact the party’s control of the Senate. But the current vacancy could complicate short-term Democratic plans in the Senate because the party is now one short of a 60-vote filibuster-proof majority.
No potential replacements have been named since Mr. Manchin, a likely candidate for the seat in 2012, made the announcement.
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