State Auditor Questions Legality of Senate Vote

Feb 16, 2017

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley's plans for an election to replace Alabama U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions are drawing widespread criticism.

Bentley wants to schedule the election for November 2018. Jeff Sessions vacated the seat when he was appointed as US Attorney General. State election law says if the vacancy occurs within sixty days, four months, or a longer amount of time from the regular election, the vote must be held "forthwith". The 2018 regular election is twenty-one months away.

The legislative Black Caucus says Bentley's plan violates the spirit of the law. Jim Zeigler is the State Auditor for Alabama. He says there is not a legal precedent for Bentley’s actions.

“'Forthwith' has legal definitions. It’s been addressed in cases, and it means immediately, as soon as possible. There’s never been a legal case where twenty-one months was considered forthwith.”

Secretary of State John Merrill says the governor has “exclusive authority” in the matter.