Recount Possibility in Moore-Jones Race Puts Alabama's Secretary of State in the Spotlight
By Mike Cason
Secretary of State John Merrill said it's too soon to know whether the margin of victory by Doug Jones in Alabama's special election on Tuesday will trigger the state's automatic recount law.
State law calls for an automatic recount in a general election if a candidate wins by not more than 0.5 percent, unless the defeated candidate submits a waiver.
Overseas ballots, provisional ballots and possibly write-in ballots will have to be counted before a final margin is determined in Jones' narrow win over Roy Moore.
The Associated Press reported that with all 2,220 precincts reporting, Jones received 671,151 votes, 50 percent, to Moore's 650,436, 48.4 percent.
There were 22,819 write-in votes cast.
Merrill said he talked to Bill Armistead of the Moore campaign and Giles Perkins of the Jones campaign to let them know what the procedure will be.
Moore did not concede the race tonight during brief marks to his supporters in Montgomery.
Merrill declined to speculate when asked if he thought there were enough overseas ballots and provisional ballots to possibly affect the outcome.
Overseas ballots can continue to come in until noon on Dec. 19.
County boards of registrars will determine which provisional ballots will count.
As for write-in ballots, the secretary of state's office will notify counties on Dec. 18 whether they have to be counted. A state law says that if the margin of victory in a race exceeds the number of write-in votes, they are not counted.
County canvassing boards will count provisional ballots, overseas ballots and write-in ballots, if necessary, on Dec. 19. Counties must report results to the secretary of state's office by Dec. 22.
Merrill said the final results will be certified by the state canvassing board no earlier than Dec. 26 and no later than Jan. 3.
A recount could only come after certification, Merrill said. The recount would begin within 72 hours after certification.
If Jones' margin of victory remains greater than 0.5 percent after all the votes are counted, Moore could still demand a recount. He would have to so so within 48 hours of the vote certification and would have to post a bond to cover the cost of conducting the recount. If the recount changed the outcome, the state would bear the cost.
In the 2010 Republican primary for governor, third-place finisher Tim James initiated a recount after finishing 167 votes behind second-place finisher Robert Bentley. That recount did not change the outcome, and Bentley went on to defeat first-place finisher Bradley Byrne in a runoff.
In the 2002 governor's race, Republican Bob Riley defeated incumbent Democrat Don Siegelman by 3,120 votes, a margin of 0.23 percent. Siegelman initially called for a recount. About two weeks later, Siegelman conceded after Riley's lawyers and Republican Attorney General Bill Pryor opposed the recount on legal grounds, tying the matter up in court.
The Legislature passed the automatic recount law the next year.
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