Alabama has certified the result of Doug Jones’ upset Senate victory, clearing the Democrat’s path to Washington just hours after his Republican rival filed a lawsuit asking for a new election.
On Thursday afternoon, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, Attorney General Steve Marshall and Secretary of State John Merrill – all Republicans – signed off on election results from all 67 counties. After late-counted provisional and military ballots were added to the total, Jones defeated Republican nominee Roy Moore by 21,924 votes out of more than 1.3 million cast.
Moore, the first Republican to lose a Senate race in Alabama since 1992, had attempted to stop that vote from being counted. Late Wednesday night, the former state judge filed a legal complaint alleging “election fraud,” and asked the state to consider holding a new election.
In the complaint, filed in state court, Moore’s campaign argued that Alabama would “suffer irreparable harm if the election results are certified without preserving and investigating all the evidence of potential fraud.”
Moore’s campaign cited rumors of election fraud that had already been investigated and refuted by the Alabama secretary of state, argued that high Democratic turnout in key areas was statistically unlikely, and reported that Moore himself had taken a polygraph test – an attempt to disprove allegations that he made unwanted sexual advances on teenagers when he was in his 30s.
Moore’s lawyers filed the complaint at 10:33 p.m. Wednesday night, and announced it to reporters less than two hours later. Early Thursday morning, Merrill’s office said that it would move ahead with the election certification unless ordered to do otherwise.
Shortly before the official certification, Montgomery Circuit Judge Johnny Hardwick denied Moore’s request to stop the process.
Moore’s complaint, filed in the circuit court of Montgomery, Ala., contains little that election observers have not already seen and dismissed. Moore’s campaign argues that the election result, a 1.5-point margin of victory for Jones, was “contrary to most of the impartial, independent polls conducted prior to the Special Election.”
It accuses the secretary of state of failing to properly investigate claims of “election fraud,” while at the same time recounting how the state cracked down after sample ballots in one heavily Democratic County were found pre-marked for Jones. (Sample ballots, which are clearly marked as such, are ineligible to be counted in election.)
The complaint also recounts how the secretary of state investigated a viral video of a man saying people had come from “across the country” to help beat Moore – but goes on to argue that the investigation was not transparent. The man in the video turned out to be a legal Alabama voter.
The Moore campaign’s main argument is that high Democratic turnout and low support for Moore in the state’s most populous, urban counties resulted in an “implausible, unexplained 35 percent drop in votes for Roy Moore relative to the vote share of Republican Party straight-line votes.” While Moore dramatically underperformed other Republican candidates in Alabama when he last ran for office, in 2012, the campaign cites four “experts” to argue that the state should “order a new special election to be held based upon the already known fraud which [Secretary of State John Merrill] had acknowledged and taken action against and the further fraud alleged in this complaint.”
The experts came to the case with baggage of their own. James Condit Jr., one of the election analysts who signed an affidavit on behalf of Moore’s campaign, has written and spoken about “Zionist” control of world politics, and alleged an Israeli role in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Richard Charnin, who provided the court with an argument that there was just enough possible fraud to swing the election, claimed to have “mathematically” proven a conspiracy behind the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
If the election certification process goes ahead Thursday, Jones will become the first Democratic senator from Alabama since 1997. An election night vote count gave him a 20,715-vote margin over Moore, with 22,819 ballots cast for write-in candidates. Since then, provisional and military ballots have been counted, confirming Jones’s lead, while county-by-county tabulations of the write-in vote have found that Sen. Luther Strange, R-Ala., who was appointed to the seat then defeated by Moore in the Republican primary, was the candidate most frequently chosen by protest voters.
Sam Coleman, a Jones campaign spokesman, dismissed the Moore complaint outright.
“This desperate attempt by Roy Moore to subvert the will of the people will not succeed,” said Coleman. “The election is over, it’s time to move on.”
In this Dec. 11, 2017, file photo, U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore speaks at a campaign rally in Midland City, Alabama. Moore is going to court to try to stop Alabama from certifying Democrat Doug Jones as the winner of the U.S. Senate race. Moore filed a lawsuit Wednesday evening, Dec. 27, 2017, in Montgomery Circuit Court. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)