Special elections are becoming so common in Alabama that they are becoming pretty much “old hat.” Of course, the nation has its eyes on the state’s most prominent special election, which will determine who is going to Washington, DC, to fill the vacant U.S. Senate seat. That battle has boiled down to two-time Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore – who upset the apple cart when he defeated Luther Strange, the Washington crowd’s choice, in the Republican primary runoff – and Democrat Doug Jones. The special election for the seat originally vacated by Sen. Jeff Sessions when he was appointed U.S. Attorney General will be held on Dec. 12. At this juncture it appears that Judge Moore is leading in the race and will win it.
But in addition to the U.S. Senate race, which has gotten a great deal of national attention, there are three vacant seats in the Alabama Legislature, two in the House and one in the Senate. The matter is complicated because all three positions are near the end of four-year terms, meaning almost as soon as they are filled they will be up for re-election. The vacancies include:
• House District 4 – This seat, serving Morgan and Limestone counties, was vacated when House Majority Leader Micky Hammon (R-Decatur) was convicted for mail fraud.
• House District 21 – Serving Madison County, this seat was vacated by the death of Rep. Jim Patterson (R-Meridianville).
• Senate District 26 – Serving Montgomery; was vacated when Sen. Quinton Ross (D-Montgomery) resigned to accept a position as President of Alabama State University.
Due to the timing for the elections to fill these vacancies, all three seats will still be empty when the legislative session starts Jan. 9, and it’s possible that they could remain vacant until the legislature breaks on or around April 23.
Primary elections for the Alabama Senate seat and House District 4 seat have been set by Gov. Kay Ivey for Dec. 12 to coincide with the general election between Moore and Jones. The general elections for the Alabama Legislative seats will be held either Feb. 27, 2018, or May 15, 2018, depending on whether there is a need for a runoff. The primary election for House District 21 will be held Jan. 9, 2018. If a runoff is needed, it will be held March 27 and the general election June 12. However, if there is no need for a primary, the general election will be held March 27.
And, because in 2018 all 140 legislative seats will be on the ballot, it’s possible the newly elected candidate may not even get a chance to serve. This leaves countless people in these districts without representation; without a voice. Additionally, special elections cost the taxpayers money, and they usually have woefully low voter turnout, so barely any bang for the buck.
There is currently no other recourse because the state Constitution requires that when a legislative seat is vacated, a special election must be scheduled, and the seat must remain empty until that election is completed. But that may not always be the case. Sen. Rusty Glover (R-Semmes) has presented a bill that would change the state’s Constitution so that if a vacancy occurs during the last two years of the term, the governor would appoint a replacement to finish the term, and that appointee could not run for a full term.
Sources: AL.com and CNN
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