2008 Jefferson County Commission special election
The 2008 Jefferson County Commission special election for the Jefferson County Commission District 1 was held on February 5, 2008 to coincide with the state's presidential primaries. William Bell defeated four other challengers with a clear majority of votes. The special election was eventually ruled illegal and the seat was won by Bell during the November 2008 general election.
The legal question of whether the position should be filled by an appointee or by special election was disputed. At the time of the election, the seat was held by George Bowman, whom Governor Bob Riley appointed to the post after Larry Langford took office as Mayor of Birmingham. The Jefferson County Elections Commission (made up of Probate Judge Alan King, Sheriff Mike Hale and Court Clerk Anne-Marie Adams) scheduled the election and issued the ballots. Riley maintained that he had the authority to fill the seat and that the election was illegal.
In late January a lawsuit filed on behalf of Patricia Working and Rick Eredmir claimed that the election was scheduled without enough notice for voters to research and support candidates. In a letter asking Circuit Court Judge Scott Vowell to order the ballots sealed, Alabama Attorney General Troy King questioned the constitutionality of the election. Vowell responded that he could not rule without giving the candidates a hearing. Lawyers appealed his response to the Alabama Supreme Court, but no ruling was handed down before the election results were posted. For his part, the projected winner, Bell, told supporters that he would take office as soon as the possible, "regardless of what the governor says and does."
Meanwhile, Riley notified a panel of three federal judges that he would seek clearance from the United States Department of Justice for his appointment of Bowman, as required by their January 22 ruling that such clearance would be required. That panel has ruled only on the civil rights matter before them, and not on the state issue of whether the appointment is legal. The action initially extended Bowman's term to at least April 21.
On February 14 the Alabama Supreme Court enjoined the election commission from certifying the results of the election pending further order. In June, the court upheld Riley's November 2007 appointment of George Bowman, and ruled that a local law allowing special elections had been repealed by 2004 legislation. The Supreme Court then ordered a November 4 vote for the position during the general elections. In July, Vowell ordered the state's political parties to pick candidates, and allowed independents to run with petitions.
With 377 of 378 precincts reporting, a total of 31,818 votes were cast in the special election, compared to 30,366 cast in the 2006 election. William Bell won outright with no need for a run-off.
- William Bell: 17,641 (55.4%)
- George Bowman (incumbent): 4,975 (15.6%)
- Eric Major: 3,308 (10.4%)
- Fred Plump: 3,292 (10.4%)
- Orville Ifill: 1,379 (4.3%)
- Kamau Afrika: 1,223 (3.8%)
- Wright, Barnett (January 11, 2008) "Major will run for District 1 seat." Birmingham News.
- Bryant, Joseph D. (January 11, 2008) "William Bell to join Jefferson County District 1 commission race." Birmingham News
- Velasco, Eric (February 5, 2008) "State high court asked to block Jeffco commission vote count." Birmingham News
- Wright, Barnett (February 6, 2008) "Birmingham City Councilman William Bell elected to Jefferson County Commission District 1 seat." Birmingham News
- Velasco, Eric and Val Walton (February 6, 2008) "Election may not settle Jefferson County Commission seat dispute." Birmingham News
- Velasco, Eric (February 14, 2008) "Challenge of William Bell's Jefferson County Commission election renewed." Birmingham News
- Velasco, Eric (February 15, 2008) "Alabama Supreme Court blocks William Bell's certification as Jefferson County's District 1 commissioner." Birmingham News
- Velasco, Eric (March 14, 2008) "District 1 special election ruling coming soon." Birmingham News
- Velasco, Eric (July 26, 2008) "Parties told to pick candidates for Jefferson County Commission seat by Aug. 6." Birmingham News