Alabama is poised to an to end special elections when vacancies occur in the state’s two U.S. Senate seats, should a bill that has now cleared the state House garner enough votes in the state Senate.
HB17, which was approved by voice vote in the House Constitution, Campaigns and Elections Committee the first week of session, found itself on the House floor Tuesday. There, it passed 67-31, along party lines.
Sponsored Ozark-Republican State Rep. Steve Clouse, the bill is intended to save taxpayers the cost of another special election should a vacancy occur in the U.S. Senate.
If passed by the Legislature, the bill would allow the governor to appoint an temporary replacement to a vacant Senate seat, followed by an election that would coincide with the next general election occurring more than one year after the vacancy occurs. The state holds general elections every two years.
While many speculate HB17 was introduced simply because a Democrat, U.S. Sen. Doug Jones bested Republican candidate Roy Moore in December’s special election. Clouse says otherwise.
He introduced the bill in the wake of 2017’s controversial scheduling of a special election after former Sen. Jeff Sessions vacated the seat to become U.S. attorney general. According to Clouse, the special election cost the state $11 million.
While it’s a certainly a deviation from Alabama’s current procedures, the method isn’t all that uncommon. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 36 other states use gubernatorial appointments should a vacancy occur. They say the Yellowhammer State is one of only 14 states to rely on a special election to fill a vacancy.
HB17 now moves to the state Senate for further consideration.