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  Arizona statute could endanger Gabrielle Giffords's hold on seat
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ContributorThe Sunset Provision 
Last EditedThe Sunset Provision  Jan 17, 2011 01:47pm
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MediaNewspaper - Washington Post
News DateMonday, January 17, 2011 07:00:00 PM UTC0:0
Description Even as Rep. Gabrielle Giffords shows signs of a near miraculous recovery, with doctors upgrading her condition from critical to serious Sunday, a little-known statutory provision in Arizona state law could endanger the Democratic congresswoman's hold on her seat through what doctors say will be a protracted medical struggle.

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.

Still, the discovery of the statute has created an unforeseen legal complication for Giffords and state officials nine days after a gunman attempted to assassinate the congresswoman outside a Tucson supermarket, killing six people and wounding Giffords and 12 others.

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