(CN) - West Virginia voters must have the chance to elect a new governor as soon as practicable, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals ruled.
Gov. Joe Manchin III stepped down as the state's leader on Nov. 10, when he was elected to fill the U.S. Senate seat opened when Robert Byrd died on June 28.
Ray Tomblin, the president of the West Virginia Senate, took on the role of acting governor.
The West Virginia Citizen Action Group asked the state's highest court for a writ of mandamus to order Tomblin to set a time for the election for a new governor. Tomblin argued that he did not have to do so until November 2012.
Richard Thompson, the House president, and Natalie Tennant, the secretary of state, were also named as respondents, but they were dismissed from the case in the order granted by the state supreme court.
"The framers (of the state Constitution) contemplated that in the event that a vacancy occurs in the officer of governor, a person shall act as governor for only such time as is reasonably necessary to elect a new governor," Justice Brent Benjamin wrote on behalf of the court. "Any other reading of (the Constitution) would be in conflict with the right of the people to elect the highest officials who serve them."