In a surprising turn of events late on Tuesday, Dec. 12, Doug Jones became the first Democrat in Alabama in 25 years to win a Senate seat. The margin was razor thin by the time he was projected the winner by the Associated Press and CNN around 10:30 p.m. ET. Republican candidate Roy Moore, as a result of the thin margin, took the opportunity to call for a recount instead of conceding the Senate seat. But will there be a recount in the Alabama election? Put simply: probably not, but it ultimately depends on many factors.
Recounts in Alabama can either be triggered automatically or requested by a candidate, and given the special election’s results, it seems that the only recount path forward will come from Moore himself — which, judging by his late-night speech, is well within the realm of possibility.
During Moore’s late-night totally-not-a-concession-speech speech on Dec. 12, the defeated candidate told his audience,
It seems clear from his speech — in which he quoted a Psalm from the Bible — that Moore has not given up hope yet, despite the projections, Jones’s victory speech, and even a tweet from President Donald Trump’s Twitter account — which, let’s be honest, was probably written by a staffer — congratulating Jones.
At the time of Moore’s speech, the margin put Jones ahead by just shy of 21,000 votes, about a 1.5 percent margin — a number which, according to experts, is unlikely to change all that much. So in all likelihood, if Moore wants a recount, Moore’s team will have to a recount.
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In Alabama, an automatic recount is triggered only when the margin is within 0.5 percent, according to Citizens for Election Integrity. That outcome is something which the Alabama Secretary of State says is unlikely to happen.
According to The Hill, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill told reporters in an impromptu press conference that his office is directing all counties to count military ballots and provisional ballots (and recount absentee ballots), which will be due to his office by Dec. 22.
The SoS’s office will then count those ballots and certify the results “sometime between Dec. 26 and Jan. 3.” (CNN reports that the office expects to certify the results between Dec. 27 and 29, if all counties report on time.)
Moore’s campaign is reportedly hoping that the margin will fall below 0.5 percent, triggering an automatic recount.
But during an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper late on Tuesday, Dec. 12, Merrill said the likelihood that the final tally will change significantly is “highly unlikely,” thanks to the reliability of the vote tallying process.
“There’s not a whole lot of mistakes that are made,” he told Tapper.
Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill tells CNN it is “highly unlikely” the outcome of the election will change: “There’s not a whole lot of mistakes that are made” https://t.co/mj0qgqCW2x
— (@cnn) #
But as of about 5:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Dec. 13, Moore still hasn’t conceded — which could mean that he plans to request a recount.
Moore’s campaign was mired in controversy: he has been accused of sexual misconduct with teenage girls, including a then-14-year-old, when he was in his 30s. (Moore has denied the allegations.) He also said in 2011 that all Amendments to the U.S. Constitution after the 10th (which include the Amendments abolishing slavery and giving women the right to vote) should be abolished to “eliminate many problems” for the United States, and in 2005 said homosexuality should be illegal, a stance that a spokesman said was “probably” still the case the day of the election.
Most essential to his defeat, however, was a concerted campaign to mobilize black voters in Alabama, who voted overwhelmingly for Democrat Jones. According to the NAACP,
Jones is the first Alabama Democrat elected to Senate since 1992’s Richard Shelby — who, two years later, became a Republican. He will take the seat of Luther Strange, who was appointed to take Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Senate seat after his cabinet confirmation. Strange lost the Republican primary to Moore in late September.
Jones will likely not take office until the new year.