Alabama Governor Moves U.S. Senate Special Election to 2017

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The State of Alabama will be holding a statewide special election for the U.S. Senate later this year after the new Governor announced that the vote would no longer wait until November 2018. AL.com has more:

Gov. Kay Ivey has changed the date for the election to fill the U.S. Senate seat previously held by Jeff Sessions.

Ivey scheduled the election for this year. Former Gov. Robert Bentley had scheduled it for next year.

Under a proclamation Ivey signed today, the primary will be August 15, the runoff, if necessary, will be Sept. 26 and the general election will be Dec. 12.

“I promised to steady our ship of state,” Ivey said in a press release today. “This means following the law, which clearly states the people should vote for a replacement U.S. Senator as soon as possible.”

The original November 2018 date for the special election had come under fire as not complying with state law regarding vacancies:

Sessions vacated the seat to become U.S. Attorney General. In February, Bentley appointed then-Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange to fill the seat on a temporary basis until a special election.

Bentley later scheduled the special election to coincide with the regular election cycle next year, with the primary in June and general election in November.

The Alabama Legislative Black Caucus, Secretary of State John Merrill, State Auditor Jim Zeigler and others contended that state law required the election to be sooner.

The Legislative Black Caucus asked Bentley to change the date. Zeigler filed a lawsuit seeking an earlier date.

The Legislative Reference Service researched the issue in response to numerous questions and determined the election should be held sooner than the 2018 cycle.

Bentley argued that the dates he chose complied with the law. The former governor also expressed concerns about the cost of a special election.

Bentley resigned as Governor earlier this month after allegations of misconduct in office, and his successor Kay decided to move up the vote after her initial concerns about cost were alleviated after consultation with other state officials:

During Ivey’s first press conference as governor last week, she said she was concerned about the cost of holding a special election, estimated to be a total of about $15 million for all three rounds, primary, runoff and general.

Today, the governor said said she had spoken with the state finance director and determined that expenditure would not impede any major functions of state government. Ivey noted that the cost would be spread over two fiscal years, 2017 and 2018.

As for the specific dates, the governor said those were picked in consultation with Secretary of State Merrill. Ivey said Merrill gave her dates for consideration, and she chose the earliest of those.

Code of Alabama, Section 36-9-8, says that if a vacancy occurs in a Senate seat more than four months before a general election, the governor is to call a special election “forthwith.”

Bentley interpreted that to mean that he had to announce the election date “forthwith,” rather than that the election had to be held “forthwith.”

The new election date obviously means 2017 is now a far more eventful election year for Alabama election officials, but the fact that there appears to be widespread support for the new date suggests that there should be enough time for counties to prepare and plan for up to three additional statewide votes this year. As with any special election, I’ll keep my eyes open for any challenges -fiscal, legal or otherwise – that arise but for now, the Yellowhammer State appears to be that unusual place where everyone seems happy to be voting sooner than later.

Stay tuned …

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