By KIM CHANDLER, Associated Press
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The Alabama House of Representatives on Tuesday voted to do away with special elections for the state’s two U.S. Senate seats and instead let the governor’s appointee serve for up to two years.
Instead of calling a special election, the governor’s would appoint an interim replacement who would serve in the U.S. Senate until the next statewide general election.
Representatives approved the bill in a 67-31 vote that largely split along party lines. Republicans said it would save the state millions of dollars in special election costs. Democrats said the people should vote on a replacement senator as soon as possible. The bill now moves to the Alabama Senate.
The vote came on the heels of last month’s special election to fill the U.S. Senate seat that previously belonged to Attorney General Jeff Sessions. U.S. Sen. Doug Jones defeated Republican Roy Moore to become the first Alabama Democrat elected to the U.S. Senate in more than 20 years.
Republican Rep. Steve Clouse, the bill’s sponsor, said the special election cost the state more than $10 million.
“It has nothing to do with any of the personalities in that race. It has everything to do with the cost to the general fund,” said Clouse, of Ozark.
Many Democrats opposed the proposal, saying people should vote as soon as possible.
“The Senate seat is entirely too powerful to give the governor the ability to create an incumbent,” said Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa.
Some Democrats suggested the bill was a reaction to Jones’ upset victory in a Republican-leaning state.
“I call it the anti-Doug Jones bill,” said Rep. John Rogers, D-Birmingham.
Clouse said he proposed the legislation last year before the outcome of the race.
Alabama law is currently unclear on the timing of special elections to fill Senate vacancies. Existing law says if the vacancy occurs more than four months before a general election, the governor of Alabama shall “forthwith order an election” but does not specify a time frame.
Former Gov. Robert Bentley last year appointed Luther Strange to the Senate seat and said the election would take place in 2018. After Bentley resigned, Gov. Kay Ivey said the election would take place within a few months.