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Merrill orders counties to identify, document write-in votes

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Monday, Secretary of State John Merrill ordered the counties to document and identify the write-in votes in Tuesday’s special election for U.S. Senate.

Merrill announced in a statement that, “Pursuant to Act 2016-450, regarding the identification and recordation of write-in votes, the Secretary of State has determined that the individual write-in votes cast in the U.S. Senate Election will be identified and documented for the results of Special General Election on December 12, 2017.”

Merrill said that this decision on whether to count these ballots was made based on Act 2016-450, which provides, upon a determination that the number of write-in votes for Office of United States Senator is greater than or equal to the difference in votes between the two candidates, receiving the greatest number of votes for the Senate seat.

Presently, the difference in the two candidates’ total votes received is 20,634, and the total number of write-in votes cast was 22,814.

In theory, some of the people who wrote in candidates could have written in Roy Moore or Doug Jones, and that could affect the final vote totals. Similarly, the only write-ins that count have to be for someone eligible to be elected to the Senate. Votes for cartoon characters or fictional characters will be discarded from the 1.7 percent of ballots cast for write-ins.

This does not include the military ballots and approved provisional ballots, so these numbers are subject to change.

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Upon completion of the count of write-in votes, the write-in votes are to be included in each county’s final canvass of results that will be certified to the secretary of state on Dec. 22, 2017.

Final certification will occur once the vote has been reviewed and certified by the State Canvassing Board – a board which consists of Gov. Kay Ivey, Secretary of State John Merrill and Attorney General Steve Marshall. This board has until Jan. 3, 2018, to certify, but this process could occur as early as Dec. 26, 2017.

Most Republicans have conceded that Clinton-era U.S. Attorney Doug Jones did defeat former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore.

As of last count, Jones had 49.9 percent of the votes cast, and Moore had just 48.4 percent of the vote. If the provisional ballots, write-ins and the military ballots were to narrow that gap to just .5 percent, then an automatic recount could be triggered.

Moore, who has refused to concede, said in a statement on Wednesday, “In this race, we have not received the final count to include military and provisional ballots.” Moore said, “This has been a very close race and we are awaiting certification by the Secretary of State.”

Jones has declared victory and is preparing to be the next senator. Appointed Sen. Luther Strange is continuing to serve until Jones is, presumably, sworn in in January.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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