Alabamians will see Amendment 4 on the ballot: Here’s what they need to know

Alabamians will see Amendment 4 on the ballot: Here’s what they need to know
(Nusbaum, Lydia)

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Amendment 4 would change when the state can have special elections to fill a vacancy in the state legislature. Supporters said it could save Alabama thousands of taxpayer dollars.

"Then you are taking enormous sums, sometimes millions of dollars out of the general fund budget for special elections,” said Rosemary Elebash, the National Federation of Independent Business state director.

Alabama has seen its fair share of state lawmakers resign from public office for a variety of reasons. When this happens, the governor calls for a special election to replace the seat.

Amendment 4 says in part if there is a vacancy in the state legislature 14 months before the general election, it will stay vacant until then.

The special election can take six to eight months to be completed. Elebash said there are times when by the time a new person is elected into office, the state legislative session has already wrapped up. That new legislator would start campaigning again.

It could cost $90,000 to $900,000 for each special election per county, according to Elebash.

“Think about the general fund budget. Think about what it funds,” she said. “Mental health, corrections, DOT, and every other state agency. When you call these special elections, it’s very costly for the taxpayer."

Sen. Rusty Glover sponsored the amendment.

“As a citizen I do care about wasteful money," he said. "This is not a good message that their sending to legislatures.”

Glover is also concerned about newly elected officials receiving PAC money as incumbents without even serving in the legislature.

“You have people elected for that last couple of months and they’ve never served," Glover said. "They’re the ones that will get the PAC money and have an advantage over those seeking that seat.”

Nancy Worley, the Alabama Democratic Party chairwoman, opposes the amendment. She said the seat needs to be filled no matter how close it is to another election.

“The most important thing about democracy is that people have representation by the person they elect. When that individual resigns, dies, for whatever reason that position is vacated, individuals need to be represented as quickly as possible," Worley said.

Worley said the state legislature should look into speeding up the special election process. She said some alternatives to a special election include allowing the party of the person in that office to name an interim representative.

“Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to provide that, if a vacancy in either the House of Representatives or the Senate occurs on or after October 1 of the third year of a quadrennium, the seat would remain vacant until a successor is elected at the next succeeding general election.”
Statewide Amendment Four

This amendment only applies to special elections for the state legislature. Amendment four would not apply in the special election for the federal offices as was the case when Jeff Sessions gave up his U.S. Senate seat to become attorney general.

If the amendment passes, it would apply to vacancies during 2021.

There are four amendments on the ballot in the general election. Other amendments deal with topics including the ten commandments and abortion.

Alabamians will vote Nov. 6.

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