One thing you can say about Roy Moore, he never gives up, he never concedes an election, preferring instead to blame others for his defeats. After being ejected (for the first time) from his position of Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court for refusing to remove his Ten Commandments monument from the rotunda of the state judicial building, in 2006 Moore challenged popular Governor Bob Riley who was running for reelection in the Republican primary. Moore lost that election 67% to 33%, but never conceded. Instead he accused the chair of the state’s Republican Party of bias towards Riley and criticized President Bush for praising Riley’s administration. Moore also never conceded defeat after he placed 4th in the 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary.
So it came as no surprise that Moore questioned the results of the recent Alabama special election to replace Jeff Sessions in the Senate immediately after it was announced that he had lost to Doug Jones by over 20,000 votes. His campaign challenged the election results with the office of the Alabama Secretary of State asking that the certification of the election be delayed.
Then, on December 28th, the day that the election was to be certified, Moore filed an 84 page law suit asking that results of the election be overturned and a new election be scheduled. The suit alleged voter fraud and also claimed that that Moore’s opponents had spread “lies and fraudulent misrepresentations.” The suit contained an affidavit signed by Moore claiming that he had taken a lie detector test which proved he had not had sexual relations with any of the women who claimed that he pursued them when they were teenagers and that he didn’t even know them.
(The affidavit did not contain any particulars of the lie detector test, the questions asked, its specific results, nor the name of the examiner. One is left to wonder why Moore didn’t take the test in a public setting well before the election if he is really innocent and he was sure that the test would clear his name. That would have undoubtedly have had a huge effect on the results of the election. It is also very convenient that we have only Moore’s word that he even took the test.)
The essence of the suit was a claim of voter fraud, in particular in Jefferson County (the city of Birmingham and many of its suburbs) where Moore lost by a wide margin. Moore’s handpicked election “experts” claimed that the high turnout in the county was “mathematically impossible” and also claimed that voters were bussed in from other states. Never mind that the “expert” who claimed to have performed the mathematical calculations is crank conspiracy theorist who has also claimed that he mathematically proved that there was a vast conspiracy to assassinate JFK. He also claimed that he has proved mathematically that DNC had former staffer Seth Rich was murdered to cover up his ties to WikiLeaks. Another of Moore’s “experts” is known to have pushed a conspiracy theory that the Jews were involved in the 9/11 attack.
The facts are that the Alabama State Republican Committee had poll monitors in each of the 23 Jefferson County precincts with directions to guard against voter fraud. Alabama also has strict voter ID requirements and none of the Republican poll watchers reported incidents of vote irregularities.
On the other hand, Jefferson County has a large black population. In addition a high percentage of its voters have college and advanced degrees due to the presence of the University of Alabama at Birmingham and its high ranked research hospital (UAB is the largest employer in the state) and a large medical research industry. Through the years Moore has provided both the black population and college educated voters with more than sufficient incentives to get out and vote against him.
There were several major reasons for Moore’s defeat, and voter fraud was certainly not among them. Alabama Democratic voters, repulsed by the Donald Trump and excited by the real possibility of a major Democratic victory in this ruby red state, were very enthusiastic about voting. Alabama Republicans – not so much. In addition, Jones’ campaign worked very hard to get out the black vote throughout the state.
Moore’s past religious grandstanding and his propensity to frequently embarrass the state on the national stage already had many Republicans leery of voting for him. The child molestation accusations pushed many of these Republican voters over the edge. Thousands stayed home, unable to vote for either candidate, while others followed the lead of Alabama Senator Richard Shelby and wrote in the name of other prominent Republicans on their ballots. Ultimately the number of write-in ballots (22,8190) was greater than margin of Jones’ victory (21,924 votes). That was what ultimately sealed Moore’s defeat.
On December 28th Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill (a Republican who admitted to voting for Moore) stated that he had found no evidence of fraud in the election and refused to postpone the certification of the election. Merrill then joined the other two members of Alabama’s Alabama State Canvassing Board, Governor Kay Ivey and Attorney General Steve Marshall (both also Republicans) to certify Doug Jones the winner of the special election. Just minutes before Alabama Circuit Judge Johnny Hardwick denied Moore’s attempt to halt the certification of the election results ruling that Moore’s law suit had no merit.
At this writing Moore can still ask for recount of the ballots of the special election, but I view that as a remote possibility. Per Alabama law, if the margin of victory in an election is less than one half of one percent of the total vote, an automatic recount to be paid for by the state is required. However, if the margin of victory is more than one half of one percent (Jones’s margin of victory was 1.5%), if the loser demands a recount he/she must bear the cost of the recount. That would be a very expensive propersition. In addition, previous recounts in Alabama have resulted in differences from the original election totals of only a few votes.
Moore could also possibly ask the US Senate to invalidate the election, but but given the disposition of his would be colleagues, Moore would be wise to not proceed with that option. Surely he would not want another very public rejection which would further damage his reputation.
Yet Moore and his campaign surrogates refuse to give up the fight. On the day of the election certification, Moore’s campaign spokesperson, Janet Porter, twice appeared on CNN to defend the attempt to block the certification of election results. While Porters interview with CNN host Dana Bash occurred before the certification was finalized, strangely her interview with John Berman occurred after Doug Jones was declared the winner.
In both cases Porter was highly combative and frequently interrupted the CNN hosts as she struggled in her attempt to justify Moore’s claims of election fraud. It was during these interviews that it became abundantly clear to me that this was no longer about an attempt to overturn an election; it had morphed into the first battle in a war waged by Moore and his people to save his political career.
Looking back on events it was clear early on that that Moore’s attempt to overturn the election results would go nowhere. The day after the election Secretary of State Merrill stated in an interview that given the margin of Jones’ victory that it was highly unlikely that he would not ultimately be certified as the winner. At that point I came to the conclusion that Moore’s reign of terror in Alabama politics was over. I remember thinking that after running for so long as “God’s candidate”, Moore political career could not survive the child molestation charges and his election loss.
However, Moore obviously does not believe that his political career is over, and he may be right. In addition, Moore obviously believes that the greatest threat to political future is not accusations sexual misconduct, but his perceived vulnerability – after all who is going to vote for him in a future Republican primary if they think he will lose to a Democrat in the general election.
Now it is clear that Moore’s claims of voter fraud were really an attempt to create an excuse – “I was robbed!” – an attempt to convince his supporters that that he really beat Doug Jones and that the election was stolen from him. So, Moore’s cries of “fraud”, the lawsuit, and the appeal to delay the certification of the election weren’t attempts to overturn the election – he knew form the start that wasn’t going to be possible – it was all about Moore’s desperate attempt to save his political career.
There are rumors on the Alabama political grapevine that Moore is already considering a run for the Alabama Attorney General post, or that he might even make a third attempt to win the Governor’s job. However, despite all of his attempts at misdirection, I really think that Moore is toast in Alabama politics.
In both case he would face a respected Republican incumbent and that alone would earn him underdog status. In addition, even before the accusations of child molestation were lodged, Moore was already dragging around a lot of baggage. Add to that baggage the accusations and the unpardonable sin of losing to a Democrat in GOP dominated Alabama and his burden becomes too much for Moore to overcome. Undoubtedly he is attempting to prolong his political career, and his most ardent admirers will continue to support him, but I believe that the majority of Alabama electorate is done with Moore and this state is much the better for it.