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CHICAGO — Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan told leaders of the state’s legislature in a letter that she sees no constitutional impediment to the Illinois General Assembly passing legislation that would allow the state’s citizens to vote in a special election for a U.S. senator to replace the appointed Democratic Senator Roland Burris. Controversy has swirled around Burris ever since he was appointed by former Democratic Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich to fill the seat vacated by President Barack Obama after the governor was criminally charged in December with seeking to extort campaign contributions and other personal benefits from candidates he was considering appointing to the seat. Burris has fueled the controversy by issuing what some consider inconsistent statements regarding his contact with the former governor about the appointment. Madigan was responding to numerous inquiries she has received from legislators on both sides of the aisle with regard to such legislation, she said in her Feb. 25 letter to the leaders. Various bills on the matter have been filed following the revelations earlier this month that Burris was changing the testimony that he presented last month to a legislative panel considering the impeachment of Blagojevich. The governor was removed from office last month. “The General Assembly possesses inherent authority, derived directly from the federal constitution, to specify the timing and manner of elections to fill a U.S. senate vacancy,” said Madigan, specifically citing the 17th Amendment. A temporary appointee has no rights that would prevent the Illinois General Assembly, which includes both the state’s house of representatives and its senate, from passing a law that would let citizens elect a senator, the letter said. Chicago labor lawyer Tom Geoghegan, an attorney at the Chicago firm Despres, Schwartz & Geoghegan who is running in a special election to fill the U.S. House of Representatives seat vacated by White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, and lawyers from the Chicago firm Frankel & Cohen filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois this week calling on Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and the people of Illinois to hold a special election. The plaintiffs argue in the lawsuit that such an election is required by the 17th Amendment. Judge v. Quinn, No. 09-1231.

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