As Dan noted earlier, Sen. Robert Byrd is dead. Lovely old codger. But that leaves Democrats down one seat in the Senate, where every vote will count in the final push to pass finance reform. So what will happen? Will West Virginia's blessedly Democratic governor get to appoint someone to hold the seat until 2012? Or must there be a special election this November—which could, given the political weather in the conservative state, give the seat to a Republican?

[A] special election is unlikely. State law says Manchin's appointment will be valid "until a successor to the office has timely filed a certificate of candidacy, has been nominated at the primary election next following such timely filing and has thereafter been elected and qualified to fill the unexpired term."

The WV primary took place May 11, making it unlikely that a special election will take place this year. And odd-year elections, used in many states to pick local officials, are a rarity in WV. In recent years, voters went to the polls only in ‘05, when they voted on a constitutional amendment. No elections were held in ‘07, ‘03 or ‘01. Because the primary has already occurred, the next opportunity to "timely file" will be Jan. '12 — when Byrd's seat would have come open anyway.

That was the perspective of Reid Wilson at the National Journal. And that link came from Firedoglake, where David Dayen adds that an appointment looks unlikely this week, which meddles with plans to pass finance reform in the Senate by the Fourth of July. Says Dayen:

I don’t see how the Senate will be able to pass cloture on financial reform. They’d have to hold Scott Brown and pick up either Maria Cantwell, Chuck Grassley or some other Republican. But after the July 4 recess, presumably someone would be installed, providing a full complement of Senators.