Secretary of State John Merrill has released the number of military and provisional ballots cast in Alabama’s special Senate race, but regardless who those votes were for, the total won’t be enough to change the outcome.
Republican Roy Moore lost the Dec. 12 contest to Senator-elect Doug Jones by more than 22,000 votes, but after more than a week, he and his campaign staff have still refused to concede defeat.
In his few public statements since the election, Moore expressed hope that uncounted military and provisional ballots might sway the result his way or at least reduce Jones’ margin of victory enough to trigger a state-sponsored recount.
However, a press release from Merrill’s office today disclosed that there were only 5,452 of those votes total, which won’t move the needle enough to affect the race.
Merrill said his office sent out 485 military ballots, which is required under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA), and when the deadline for returning those ballots passed, the office had only received 366.
The number of provisional ballots, which are used when there are questions about a voter’s eligibility, was higher but still isn’t high enough to be impactful, either. As of Dec. 20, Merrill said his office had received 4,967 provisional ballots — 2,888 of which have been verified.
Because no more of either type of ballot can be received, it doesn’t appear those numbers can help close the gap between Jones and Moore enough to impact the race, though Moore could still request a recount he would have to fund himself.
In the release, Merrill said those votes will be counted and added to the total number of votes recorded in each of Alabama’s 67 counties — all of which will be submitted to the Alabama State Canvassing Board so the results can be certified.
According to Merrill, state law requires the certification process start no sooner than Dec. 26, 2017, and no later than Jan. 3, 2018. That certification process is important because Jones can’t assume his new position in the Senate until it’s completed.
Moore’s only hope of staging a last-minute upset now lies in proving that substantial voter fraud occurred, which has been a concern among some supporters. The campaign recently stoked this issue by requesting donations for an “election integrity” team to compile reported voter fraud.
However, there have been a number of instances of suspected or alleged voter fraud from the Dec. 12 Senate election reported to the secretary of state’s office.
While the state’s data hasn’t shown any irregularity that could indicate fraudulent activity, Merrill told Lagniappe his office would investigate any report the same as it has in previous election cycles.
A number of Moore supporters have pushed claims that Jones’ victory was tainted by Democratic voter fraud through various videos and posts on social media, and earlier this week, Merrill confirmed his office was investigating at least one of those.
The video in question was taken from a local news report that included footage of Jones’ election watch party in Birmingham. In the report, an ecstatic Jones’ supporter told a Fox 10 reporter he and others “from different parts of the country” had “pitched in to vote and canvass together.”
Some have suggested that was a Freudian slip — an admission of organized voting from out-of-state Democrats. Others say the young man simply misspoke in his excitement. Either way, Merrill said his office is trying to identify the man and ask him directly.
As of Wednesday, Merrill said the man from the video had not been located, though he did say Doug Jones’ team had worked with his office to identify him and had been very helpful.
Given Alabama’s voter identification laws, which require a government approved photo ID, Merrill said that it’s unlikely any widespread voting from non-Alabamians could occur. He also said the trends of voter registration observed by his office leading up to the election were normal.
Since he took office in January 2015, Merrill said Alabama has added 865,107 new registered voters or roughly 5,800 a week through the beginning of 2018. When asked, he said no “intentional spike” was seen during the registration period for the special Senate election.
“If there were a concern or a problem, what you would have seen is a notable spike that would have yielded maybe 12-to-15 thousand new voters, but that’s not what happened,” he added. “We’ve just seen the same ole pattern.”