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The VICE News Alabama special election watch

Voting in Alabama has ended and one of the wildest and most emotionally fraught Senate races in recent memory is almost over.

by Alex Thompson and Carter Sherman
Dec 12 2017, 8:10pm

Voting in Alabama has ended and one of the wildest and most emotionally fraught Senate races in recent memory is almost over. We’ll bring you the latest updates, analysis, and need-to-know background as the votes are counted and a new U.S. senator is elected.

The race has been so unusual that polls haven’t been able to agree on where voters are leaning, and no one can really say for sure who will prevail. On the left stands Democrat Doug Jones, a mild-mannered former U.S. attorney, who has a real chance of winning a state that Donald Trump won by 28 points just 13 months ago. And then there is Republican Roy Moore, the not-so-mild-mannered former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court who is accused of child molestation and trying to date teenagers half his age.

In spite of the allegations, President Trump and his former chief strategist Steve Bannon have backed Moore. Most Republicans in Washington, however — including the state’s other senator, Republican Richard Shelby — have denounced Moore or at least done their best to avoid answering questions about him.

Trump is deeply invested in the outcome of the race and the results will have consequences on both the tax reform bill currently making its way through Congress and the 2018 midterm elections. Follow along.

That’s it, folks

Doug Jones will be the next senator from Alabama, shrinking the Republican majority in the senate to just 51-49, according to the Associated Press and Fox News. It will be the first time a Democrat has won a senate seat in Alabama since 1992, a state that voted for President Trump by 28 points just 13 months ago.

It’s a hot one over at Moore headquarters

Jones takes the lead??

Every few seconds seems to bring a new update, but one thing’s constant: Doug Jones and Roy Moore are neck and neck. At 10:20 p.m., Jones took the lead by about 9,000 votes, but that’s the biggest advantage he’s had over Moore in a while — only a couple of minutes ago, only 500 people separated the pair.

Tomorrow never decides

What if the Alabama Senate race doesn’t end today? It’s entirely possible. If the vote is within .5 percent, then Alabama automatically goes into a recount. And this race is close. Like, really close. It would be the highest profile recount election since the infamous 2000 recount between George W. Bush and Al Gore.

For better or worse

With several more counties now reporting in their results, a narrative is starting to emerge: Jones is doing better ithan Clinton did in the 2016 election, and Moore is doing worse than Trump.

Jones won Russell County, for example, with just over 65 percent of the vote, where Clinton only won 49.7 percent. Jones is even besting Clinton in Perry County, which she took with 72.5 percent of the vote and he won by 79 percent.

Meanwhile, Trump won Fayette County with 81.4 percent of the vote, where Moore won only 74.5 percent. Things are even worse in Colbert County, where Trump won 67.2 percent of the vote and Moore took about 53 percent.

Four other counties also have 100 percent of their vote in: Butler and Bullock, which both went for Jones, and Winston and Cleburne, which went for Moore.

Two down, 65 to go

Randolph County and Houston County just became the first counties in Alabama to have all votes counted — and both overwhelmingly voted in favor of Moore. Moore took Randolph with 65.3 percent of the vote, and Houston with 61.2 percent.

President Donald Trump won both of those counties with more than 70 percent of the vote in the 2016 election.

Too early to say anything except early looks good for Jones

Early signs are good for Doug Jones. And I do mean EARLY. There are only 7% of results in.

But some precincts show Jones far exceeding Hillary Clinton’s performance last November and some of the closest observers of such granular data say the Democrat has a good chance in the Republican stronghold of Alabama.

Can’t live with fake news, can’t live without it

A Republican voter in Alabama told VICE News that they don’t trust anything they read in the Washington Post or the New York Times — but apparently, Moore voters still trust the Times enough to tell them whether their candidate won.

Inactive until proven active

Earlier this year, the Alabama secretary of state sent every Alabama voter a mailer to update their voting registration information. If voters didn’t respond in time to that mailer, however, they were marked as “inactive.”

That designation confused people trying to vote Tuesday, said Derrick Robinson, spokesperson for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which ran a hotline to help Alabama voters resolve issues they faced on election day. While voters can fix their status at their polling place and still vote using a regular ballot, Robinson worried that people wouldn’t know they had the option or how to do it.

“There are folks who claim up and down that they never received [the mailer],” Robinson said. “You may have a number of folks who showed up, were inactive, didn’t know what the hell to do, didn’t have our number.”

If people are marked inactive for more than two federal election cycles, they are no longer registered to vote, said Julie Houk, special senior counsel for the Committee’s Voting Rights Project.

Several states have similar policies, Houk added, but she believes such a policy leads to voter suppression, especially among poor people, people of color, and less-educated people.

“I think it can have a tremendous negative impact on people’s ability to exercise their right to vote without really performing a good public function or preventing so-called voter fraud,” she told VICE News. “It’s just another hoop for people to jump through.”

Exit polls indicate Alabama voters were underwhelmed by molestation allegations

Exit polls shouldn’t be taken as gospel, but they are revealing. And sometimes stunning: Though the allegations of child molestation against Moore turned the race upside down, most Alabama voters said that they ultimately weren’t a deciding factor in their vote. In exit polls, only 33 percent of voters called the allegations “one of several important factors,” according to the Washington Post. Another 19 percent said they were “a minor factor,” and a whopping 35 percent said they were “not a factor at all.”

Those results may stem from the fact that 44 percent of polled voters also called the allegations “definitely or probably false.”

The Washington Post was banned from Roy Moore's election party

The Washington Post was barred from covering Roy Moore tonight. The Post, the first to report allegations that Moore molested a 14-year-old girl, applied for credentials to cover Moore’s election night event. The application was denied. According to CNN, Post reporters showed up anyway tonight and were not allowed in.

The anti-media attitude from the Moore campaign has not been exclusive to the Post over the last several weeks. In fact, Moore seemed to be campaigning more against the media than he was against his opponent as he worked to discredit the allegations against him, which he continues to deny.

Moore’s campaign against the media in many ways has mirrored Trump, who uses “fake news” as a go-to rebuttal. Another thing they share in common: former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, who has been closely advising the Moore campaign in the final stretch. “He’s the counter to the ‘fake news’ — he’s been a stalwart,” Moore told Bloomberg News of Bannon. “It’s helped us a lot. He’s the master strategist.”

What do you do with a problem like Moore?

Watch the write-in vote tally as the results come in. While many Republicans in the state said that they could not vote for Roy Moore, some say they also can’t stomach voting for a Democrat, especially one as progressive as Doug Jones. Some, like Republican Senator Richard Shelby, are opting to write-in an alternative, which could help split the conservative vote to Jones’ advantage.

VICE News spent the past few weeks canvassing Alabama, speaking to voters across the political and demographic spectrum about how they intend to vote and why. Check out our coverage:

“Moore or Jones? Alabama women explain their vote”

In the hours and days before the election, Alabama women remained split on whether to vote for a man accused of trying to date a 14-year-old.

“Alabama’s wealthy suburbs don’t like Roy Moore, but they may vote for him anyway”

In Birmingham, people said the scandal was “embarrassing for Alabama,” but many said their desire to have a Republican in office trumped their worries about Moore.

“In rural Alabama, allegations against Roy Moore are ‘fake news’”

Thirty-five miles away, in Woodstock, others denounced the child molestation allegations against Moore as “all propaganda.”

“Why these Alabama voters are sticking by Roy Moore”

Republican pollster Frank Luntz moderated a panel of a dozen conservative voters to find out why they’re sticking by Moore.

Not too little but is it too late?

Over the last month, the Jones campaign has been firing on all cylinders, but will it be enough? Jones didn’t start running his campaign with a sense of urgency until the Washington Post published the sexual allegations against Moore on November 9, throwing the campaign into unchartered territory.

The two candidates’ campaigns could not have been more different the month following the Washington Post’s report alleging Moore molested a 14-year-old girl when he was in his thirties.

Here are some astounding stats at how the campaign surged:

  • In the last thirty days, 79 percent of all election TV ads in the state bought by Jones or Jone-aligned outside groups, according to Kantar Media’s CMAG.
  • As of December 8, Jones outraised Moore $11.8 million to $5.3 million.
  • Since October 1, Jones raised $10 million to Moore’s $5.3 million.
  • Outside groups supporting Jones have outspent outside groups supporting Moore by 2-1, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan good government group Issue One

Still, if Jones comes up short, he and Democrats across the country may wish they invested time and money into the race earlier.