In the weeks since the Washington Post reported on the allegations of child molestation against Roy Moore, Alabama’s special election for the U.S. Senate has been dominated by the question of his fitness to hold office.
One problem is Alabama’s notoriously strict ballot access laws. That makes it nearly impossible for any candidate other than the Republican and Democratic nominees to qualify.
That means that Moore and Doug Jones, the former U.S. Attorney, will be the only names listed on the December 12 ballot. That hasn’t stopped several candidates from attempting a write-in candidacy.
All of the traditional suspects would could step in as a write-in have a good reason not to
Before President Trump weighed in to throw his support behind Moore, Mitch McConnell admitted to exploring the feasibility of a last-minute write-in campaign by an alternative Republican candidate.
With few names seen as having the chance to win, and so little time left before the election, such efforts did not materialize. Attorney General Jeff Sessions intends to keep his current job, and not return to take back his old Senate seat.
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey is new to the office, having just been bumped up from lieutenant governor after her predecessor resigned in disgrace. Incumbent appointed Senator Luther Strange is likewise off the table, having been defeated by Moore in the Republican primary.
The nation’s largest and most persistent third-party, the Libertarians, have nominated party member Ron Bishop as their write-in candidate. The party put out a press release touting his candidacy after the Moore sex-abuse story broke.
Some new write-in entrants to the Alabama Senate race
Another entry into the race has spurred more media coverage. However, candidate Lee Busby – a retired colonel in the Marines –seems to be struggling to gain traction. Busby announced his bid as a self-described Republican write-in candidate last week, with a round of interviews on national cable news programs.
Busby insists his bid is motivated by finding Moore unacceptable regardless of the allegations against him, because of Moore’s history of demagoguery and lawlessness that saw him twice removed from the state’s supreme court.
Media reports also took note of the fact that Busby was formerly an aide to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, when both were in the Marines. Kelly, however, has not commented publicly on the matter, and his boss is sticking with Roy Moore.
Unless Roy Moore were to drop out of the race or somehow be disqualified, it’s very unlikely that a write-in bid will win.
In the modern era, only two write-in candidates have ever been successful for Senate
In the modern era, only two incumbent Senators have pulled off a victory in a write-in bid. One of them is Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the Alaska Republican, who won in 2010. No non-incumbent has ever won a Senate race as a write-in candidate.
While a write-in likely won’t win or even came close, it does provide an option for Republicans who find Moore unacceptable, but for ideological reasons still won’t vote for a Democrat. The state’s senior senator, Richard Shelby, announced that he cast a write-in vote, without saying for whom he voted.
Ultimately, the identity of the write-in candidates might not matter much, because it’s likely there will be a wide scattering among different candidates. And by providing an honorable way out for Alabama Republicans, these protest votes could deprive Roy Moore of victory.
Polls show the race is still close, with a wide spread among different pollsters. If even two or three percent of voters opt for a write-in instead of the Republican nominee, that may well be enough to change the outcome.
If not, and Moore still wins in spite of the allegations, all eyes will be on Mitch McConnell and Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, to see if they follow through with their threat to expel him, which under the Constitution would require a two-thirds vote of senators.
(Photo of Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Judge Roy Moore speaking during a mid-Alabama Republican Club’s Veterans Day event on November 11, 2017, in Vestavia Hills, Alabama by Wes Frazer/Getty Images)