While Alabama’s voters go to the polls Tuesday to choose between Senate candidates Roy Moore and Doug Jones — currently the hottest topic in American politics — don’t expect the wall-to-wall coverage to end.
There are several ways the debate could run on well after the polls close, political science experts say. Here’s a look at a few scenarios.
A recount. If the candidates come within one-half of 1 percentage point of each other, it will take a recount to settle the election, Secretary of State John Merrill said Monday.
Polls in recent days have shown wild variations, sometimes registering a strong lead for Jones, sometimes for Moore.
Moore wins, but other senators eject him. If Moore wins, the Ethics Committee could take up hearings, with an eye toward ousting him over sexual misconduct allegations, said Jess Brown, a retired political science professor from Athens State University.
Ousting Moore would require the vote of at least some Republicans willing to sacrifice the seat, Brown said.
Moore wins, but won’t play nice. Alabama’s sitting senator, Richard Shelby, has made no secret of the fact that he wrote in another Republican in Moore’s place.
“You have a sitting senator who said Alabama could do better than this candidate,” said Lori Owens, a political science professor at Jacksonville State. “That could be uncomfortable.”
If Moore wins, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — long a target of negative ads by the Moore campaign — will likely have to appoint Moore to some committees. That could be the start, Brown said, of many conflicts between Moore and the party establishment.
Jones wins, and a Supreme Court seat opens up. Jones has marketed himself as a moderate willing to work across party lines. Still, it could be hard for him to avoid heated debate if he wins and a Supreme Court seat comes open during his term.
“It could be very hard for him not to vote with the party in that situation,” Owens said. She cited the case of Alabama Sen. Howell Heflin, a Democrat who sometimes voted in step with Ronald Reagan but couldn’t bring himself to approve Robert Bork as a Supreme Court justice.