Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is recovering quickly from her shooting, but is it quickly enough? Because "a little-known statutory provision in Arizona state law" — the scariest words imaginable — could force a special election for her seat within months.
A statute buried in Arizona law states that if a public officeholder ceases to "discharge the duties of office for the period of three consecutive months," the office shall be deemed vacant - at such time a special election could be called to fill the vacancy.
The law does not specify what those duties entail - it does not state, for instance, that a vacancy is declared if a member of Congress does not cast votes in Washington during a three-month period. And it could not be determined what Giffords's legal recourse might be should she be incapacitated for more than 90 days.
Arizona's legislature will probably amend this law soon to give the situation more breathing room. But at some point — not right at this minute — a decision will have to be made about Giffords' congressional career, and whether she's capable of continuing it. This will be an awkward issue to raise. But that's Arizona's problem! Phew.
[Image via AP]