Invasion and Elections

On October 28, 2008, the rogue nation of Dystopia launches an amphibious assault on the northern coast of California. Achieving total surprise, Dystopian marines quickly push inland, and within a week (November 4, 2008) have conquered a large chunk of territory - territory that, by pure coincidence, are the exact geographical boundaries of California’s First Congressional District.

Despite repeated efforts of the US armed forces (vastly overextended abroad), Dystopian troops are still in control of the District on January 3, 2009 - when the new Congress is sworn in.

Who, if anybody, is sworn in to represent the California 1st in January 2009?

I put this in Great Debates because I am not sure if there is a definitive answer. The Constitution does not appear to have a clause on point, and I don’t think history serves to resolve the question - it doesn’t appear that, in the War of 1812, the British were in complete control of a Congressional district during either election that occurred in that war, and the Civil War is an inapt comparison.


I would imagine the seat remains vacant until proper elections can be held. The Civil War actually does seem like an apt comparison. The US was not in control of those areas held by the rebels, so no elections were held, and the congressional seats remained vacant.

But the people in those districts in the Civil War decided to not hold elections to the US Congress. In my scenario, the right to hold the election was wantonly stripped from the people of the California 1st by those evil Dystopian bastards. I think being denied representation in Congress by the act of another is an important distinction.

The Civil War would be apt if, for example, the Confederates held a congressional district in Union territory on election day. But I don’t think that happened.


I d’nt really see why it should be a distinction. In both cases, the political situation is such in the area that an election can’t he beld, and there’s no provision in the Constitution for picking congressmen other than by election.

And, in the Civil War, representation in Congress was denied to the people in rebel areas by the act of the rebels holding civil authority. If I was a loyal Unionist in Arkansas in 1862, I still wasn’t able to vote for a representative to the US Congress. Even if I was a loyal Unionist in a predominately Unionist congressional district in Arkansas, I still wasn’t able to vote for a representative to the US Congress. So, it’s not that I didn’t choose to vote…it’s that my right to vote was taken away from me by the state of Arkansas.

But Arkansas had seceded. What happened in those districts in loyal Kentucky that were held by the Confederacy? Were those seats vacated after the congressional elections in '62 and '64?

The Confederacy had an election in 1863, at which time I think the Union had control of most of Tennessee. Obviously this was done under the Confederate Constitution, but it might be informative to the OP to know how Tennessee’s seats in the Conferderate legislature were allotted.

With respect to Sua, who cares? There isn’t any clear answer, and debating the topic is pretty silly, isn’t it, given that it’s not a likely scenario in any way?

And why pose the question, then swat away the only semi-valid comparison that can be made?

The First District didn’t/can’t choose someone to represent them, so there’s no way to swear in someone. I’d assume that once the Dystopian invaders were repelled, a special election would be called so someone can be elected to serve the remainder of the Congress.

If likelihood was a necessary precondition for a Great Debate, there would be considerably fewer threads in this forum. :smiley:

Because I am taking a position in the debate - I do not think that the comparison to the Civil War is apt, for the reasons I set forth. If well-reasoned argument convinces me otherwise, I will change my position.


The Confederacy was out of Kentucky by November of '62. Elections were held as scheduled.

Interestingly, the 38th Congress did have some representatives from Louisinia and Virginia, from those areas held by the US.

Would you consider re-seating the sitting Congress(wo)man a valid option?


I know I wouldn’t. That Congress(wo)man’s term expired. He or she doesn’t have legitimacy to sit.

Ditto. Who’s to say that the people of the First District consider their last representative a Quisling of the worst order?

Wouldn’t the Governor of California, (what’s his name?) pick someone?

The governor of a state can pick people to temporarily fill vacant Senate seats, but not vacant House seats.

I’m not sure that that’s a problem, because the United States did not, legally, accept that Arkansas (or any other state) had seceded from the Union; as far as the administration was concerned, these states were in rebellion against the Union, but still legally part of the Union. It would appear to me, then, that the stance the Union took towards elections was that the rebels prevented those elections from taking place, exactly as the evil Dystopian invaders are in SuaSponte’s hypothetical.

Now that’s a point. I’m coming closer to accepting that, and therefore that the Civil War is indeed an apt analogy (See, DS ;))


It does seem odd that you wouldn’t have the equivalent of a Government in Exile. Wouldn’t the proud refugees and traveling businesspeople of the 1st District that are alive and free outside of the 1st’s borders want to have someone represent their interests? To fight as hard as they would in Congress to be sure all efforts were being made to free their loved ones and homes?

What would the minimum number of voters be to hold an election in that district (a quorum)? Say you have 50,000 business travelers, college students, commuters, and fleeing refugees who were out of town when the borders were sealed. Couldn’t you set up temporary voting in a neighboring district?

What if this were not an invasion, but rather flooding twice as severe as Katrina? Or if Mt. Shasta erupted, denying all human access to the district for the fall and winter of 2008-9, and for an unknown time to come? Would elections be held elsewhere?

I wonder if he has in mind a Mexican take-over of one of the southern states?

Another distinct possibility. Absentee ballots are certainly permissible; hell Oregon is exclusively voting by mail, isn’t it? (Should have made the Dystopians invade Oregon, instead.)

I do not believe the concept of quorum applies to Congressional elections.

Well, voting in New York State elections was delayed due to 9/11, but they weren’t Congressional elections.

The Constitution provides that “The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations.” Art I., Sec. 4, cl. 1. So the date of the election can be changed, but would probably have to be before January 3rd.