Alabama Governor Sued Over Senate Election Date

(CN) – Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler is taking Gov. Robert Bentley to court over the date chosen for the special election to replace former Sen. Jeff Sessions.

Sessions vacated his U.S. Senate seat Feb.14, after being confirmed as the nation’s new attorney general. Shortly thereafter, Bentley appointed Luther Strange, Alabama’s attorney general, to fill the vacant seat and said the special election for the Senate seat would be held in November 2018, to coincide with the midterm election.

Joining Zeigler in the “bipartisan” complaint was retired District Attorney Tommy Chapman, who is also the chairman of the Democratic Executive Committee of Conecuh County, Ala. The complaint was filed in Montgomery County Circuit Court.

According to the March 5 lawsuit, the plaintiffs seek an order that the “scheduling of a special election for November 2018 to fill the U.S. Senate seat formerly held by Senator Jeff Sessions is contrary to Alabama law.”

They also seek an injunction requiring Bentley “to schedule an election to take place, forthwith.”

The plaintiffs contend Alabama law describes three scenarios by which the U.S. Senate seat should be filled.

The first pertains to vacancies occurring “within 60 days of a regular election,” and the second pertains to vacancies occurring “within four months of a regular election but not within 60 days of it.”

The third scenario, which the plaintiffs assert is the relevant law in the current situation, covers vacancies occurring “more than four months from the next regular election.”

From the complaint: “Because the vacancy in the U.S. Senate seat occurred 21 months before the next regular election scheduled for November, 2018, Scenario Three governs, and Governor Bentley has a ministerial duty to schedule an election to fill the vacant seat forthwith. Instead, Governor Bentley, in defiance of the statute, has used Scenario Two, which applies only when the vacancy occurs within four months of the next regular election.”

In a statement on Monday, Bentley’s chief legal advisor, David Byrne, said that the governor would “vigorously” defend the lawsuit.

“The Governor set the election in the way state and federal law requires. Auditor Zeigler has filed this wasteful lawsuit without even proposing an election date he believes to be legal or feasible. He is urging the State to defy a federal-court order and to ignore other important requirements of the law,” Byrne stated.