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McClendon to introduce bill for winner-take-all special elections

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

State Sen. Jim McClendon, R-Springville, announced that he plans to introduce legislation changing how state Legislature vacancies are filled.

Currently, the Alabama Legislature is meeting for the 2018 regular legislative session. Representatives from across the state are meeting in Montgomery to decide state affairs. Not everyone is represented though. Citizens of Limestone and Morgan Counties in House District 21 don’t have a representative in the House, citizens of Madison County in House District 4 also don’t have a legislator in the House and citizens of Senate District 26 don’t have a state senator.

“If a vacancy occurs in a legislative seat it can be months and months before it is filled,” McClendon said. “One of our districts in Montgomery. They are just without a Senator.”

McClendon said that the bill he is going to introduce this week has a lot of moving parts; but it would call for a single race called in eight weeks. Republicans, Democrats and Independents can all run on the same ballot.

“Not only will it speed up the process it will save a ton of money,” McClendon said.

The Alabama Political Reporter asked McClendon how Independents and minor party candidates would qualify for the ballot.

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McClendon said that Independents would still have to get signatures of registered voters in the district to get access; but that his bill would lower the threshold from three percent of the ballots cast in the district in the last governor’s race to just two percent.

APR asked if the political parties could just appoint their representatives.

McClendon said no. There could be multiple certified candidates on the ballot.

APR asked if there would be a runoff between the two highest vote-getters if no one had over 50 percent.

“No, it would be winner take all,” McClendon said.

Sen. McClendon made the announcement Monday, Jan. 15, at the St. Clair County Farmer’s Federation meeting in Ashville.

Under current law, there are major party primaries, and there could be a major party primary runoff to determine the winner of the primary. Both of these occur before a special general election can occur. Currently, several seats remain unfilled.

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State Rep. Micky Hammon, R-Decatur, vacated his seat when he pleaded guilty to mail fraud. Sen. Quinton Ross, D-Montgomery, vacated his seat to accept the position of president of Alabama State University. Another seat is open after state Rep. Jim Patterson died of a heart attack in October.

Special elections are being held to fill the vacancies; but there won’t be a winner in House District 21 until after the general election on March 27. For Hammon’s and Ross’ former seats, there will be party runoff elections on Feb. 27 and special general elections on May 15. The major party primaries will be on June 5 with the rest of the state.

This would only be for the remainder of unexpired terms when a vacancy occurs. Regular elections would not change.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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