Alabama House votes 67-31 to end special elections

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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.

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