Roy Moore’s hopes to overtake Doug Jones with late-counted ballots in Alabama’s election for U.S. Senate were dealt a fatal blow Wednesday.
Secretary of State John Merrill’s office announced that ballots sent in by overseas military personnel and provisional ballots totaled 5,333, far short of Jones’ 20,715-vote lead in ballots counted the night of the Dec. 12 election. Even if all the late votes were for Moore, it wouldn’t narrow Jones’ 1.5 percentage-point margin to the 0.5 percent threshold state law requires for an automatic recount.
Moore has yet to concede the Senate election, the first won by a Democrat in Alabama in 25 years. The day after the election, Moore in a recorded video statement pointed to the military and provisional ballots, and said his campaign was awaiting certification by the secretary of state.
Merrill’s announcement Wednesday said certification would come “no sooner than December 26, 2017, and no later than January 3, 2018.”
Moore’s campaign spokeswoman acknowledged receipt of emailed questions Wednesday, but had not yet responded.
Asked whether Jones had heard from Moore or whether Jones was making plans for a swearing-in ceremony at the Senate, Jones’ campaign spokesman sent a statement that mentioned CHIP, the Children’s Health Insurance Program that Congress allowed to lapse in October. Alabama public health officials have said the state’s version of the program, ALL Kids, will end Feb. 1 without action from Washington.
“This election has been over since Dec. 12 and these numbers only further indicate it is time to move on, come together as a state, and begin addressing the serious issues facing the people,” Sebastian Kitchen wrote, “like improving education and wages and addressing the looming deadline when more than 150,000 Alabama children begin losing their health care.”
Counties across the state counted military ballots, checked write-in votes and reviewed provisional ballots on Tuesday, Merrill’s announcement said. Of the 485 ballots sent to military voters overseas, 366 were returned, the announcement said. Of the 4,967 provisional ballots cast, 2,888 had been verified, according to Merrill’s announcement. Provisional ballots are those cast in cases where there’s some problem with a voter’s registration or identification that officials can verify later.
In Calhoun County, Sheriff Matthew Wade said the 100-plus provisional ballots reviewed by local election officials on Wednesday had yielded more votes for Jones than Moore.
“He didn’t gain any ground,” Wade said of Moore.
Calhoun County’s results were certified by local officials on Wednesday, Wade said. The names written in by voters who chose neither candidate were posted on the Sheriff’s Office website. Outgoing Sen. Luther Strange was the top write-in candidate locally, with 195 votes.
A handful of local politicians got write-in votes, including state Sen. Del Marsh with 14, Weaver Mayor and state Senate candidate Wayne Willis with one, and a single vote for former Circuit Clerk Eli Henderson. Canvassers were not required to report votes for names determined to be fictitious characters, but one vote for Alfred E. Newman was recorded; that may have been a vote for Alfred E. Neuman, the mascot for the humor magazine Mad.
All counties are expected to certify their election results by Friday and submit the totals to the Secretary of State’s office, which will then certify the statewide result.
As Moore’s hopes of counting more votes faded, his campaign appeared to be turning to allegations of voter fraud. In a Friday email to supporters seen by several state news outlets, the campaign asked for money to support an “election integrity fund.”
Rumors have circulated online in the wake of Moore’s defeat, alleging fraudulent voters were bused in from out of state and that poll workers had been caught allowing thousands of unregistered voters to cast ballots. The Associated Press debunked some such rumors in a story published Tuesday.
Wade, a Republican who serves as one of Calhoun County’s election officials, said he’d been frustrated by false information about the election he’d seen on social media.
“What upsets me about it, it doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat or a Republican, it degrades the confidence in our electoral system.”
Wade said his office had been working since the election to check off the many requirements designed to ensure elections’ integrity. He compared the accounting of ballots to a checkbook register, and said an effort to steal an election with fraudulent ballots would be unlikely to succeed.
“I don’t see how they could do it,” he said. “I’m not saying it couldn’t be done, but it would be easy to catch them.”