On May 4, the Alabama House passed HB 552. It lowers the independent candidate petition requirement in special elections from 3% of the last gubernatorial vote, to 1%. It does not apply to special elections if the special election was called more than 120 days before the petition deadline.
In the matter of the upcoming special U.S. Senate election to be held this year, that special election was called on April 19, and the petition deadline is August 15. That interval is less than 120 days, so assuming this bill is signed into law, the independent petition requirement for that special election will be 11,804 signatures instead of 35,413. The bill now goes to the State Senate.
The bill gives no relief to petitions to put the nominee of an unqualified party on the ballot.
In 1990, a U.S. District Court in Alabama ruled that it was unconstitutional for the state to provide a higher petition requirement for independents than for newly-qualifying parties. That was Patton v Camp. Given that precedent in Alabama, it is odd that HB 552 doesn’t also include petitions for newly-qualifying parties. Thanks to Joshua Cassity for the news about HB 552.