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Doug Jones certified as Alabama’s first Democratic senator in 25 years

Doug Jones on Thursday became the first Democrat in 25 years to be confirmed as winner of a U.S. Senate seat in Alabama, just hours after his opponent, controversial Republican Roy Moore, filed a lawsuit urging officials to delay certification because of “systematic election fraud.”

The three Republicans who make up Alabama’s canvassing board — Gov. Kay Ivey, Atty. Gen. Steve Marshall and Secretary of State John Merrill — certified Jones as the victor of the closely watched Dec. 12 special election.

“I am looking forward to going to work for the people of Alabama in the new year,” Senator-elect Jones said in a statement. “As I said on election night, our victory marks a new chapter for our state and the nation. I will be an independent voice and work to find common ground with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to get Washington back on track and fight to make our country a better place for all.”

Late Wednesday night, attorneys for Moore and his campaign filed an election complaint in the Circuit Court of Montgomery to postpone Jones’ certification until officials had conducted a “thorough investigation of potential election fraud” that “improperly altered the outcome of this election.”

But an Alabama circuit judge on Thursday rejected Moore’s request to halt the certification, arguing the court did not have jurisdiction. Meanwhile, officials from the secretary of state’s office dismissed accounts of voter fraud provided by Moore’s attorneys.

“There have not been any issues at this time that have been reported and determined to be verified as fraud,” said John Bennett, Merrill’s deputy chief of staff.

Moore, 70, the defiant former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, has refused to concede since Jones defeated him by more than 20,000 votes in a Dec. 12 special election.

“This is not a Republican or Democrat issue as election integrity should matter to everyone,” Moore said in a statement released Wednesday night. “We call on Secretary of State Merrill to delay certification until there is a thorough investigation of what three independent election experts agree took place: election fraud sufficient to overturn the outcome of the election.”

In the 80-page complaint filed in state court, Moore’s attorneys urged the court to order state officials to preserve election-related documents and data, block the certification, and direct state officials to set a new special election.

On Thursday morning, an attorney for Jones filed a motion to dismiss Moore’s complaint on the grounds that “there is a lack of subject matter jurisdiction; [the complaint] fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted; and/or [it] has no basis in the law.”

In a statement, a spokesman for the Jones transition team urged Moore to bow out of the race.

“This desperate attempt by Roy Moore to subvert the will of the people will not succeed,” said Sam Coleman. “The election is over, it’s time to move on.”

In the complaint, Moore’s attorneys maintain that he will “suffer irreparable harm” if the election results are certified “without preserving and investigating all the evidence of potential fraud.” He would be denied “his full right as a candidate to a fair election,” they argue.

Merrill, a Republican, maintains his office has found no evidence of voter fraud. Last week, he issued a statement noting that his office had discounted one widely publicized report of potential voter fraud — a viral video in which a male voter claimed in a local news broadcast that he and others had come “all the way from different parts of the country” to vote and canvass for Jones.

“The Alabama Secretary of State’s Office was able to identify the young man who was anonymously featured on the news broadcast,” Merrill said in a statement. “After additional research was conducted, it was determined that this young man has lived and worked in Alabama for more than one year and is currently a registered voter in this state.”

Yet Moore’s attorneys state in the complaint that Merrill never conducted a “meaningful, in depth investigation of voter fraud.” .

They also list a series of election “anomalies,” claiming there were an unusual number of out-of-state drivers’ licenses, and suggesting that Democrats attempted to intimidate voters, with a Democratic Super PAC running fraudulent, false and misleading advertisements” against Moore.

They also state that high Democratic turnout in some precincts of Jefferson County — Alabama’s most populated county and a Democratic stronghold — resulted in an “implausible, unexplained 35 percent drop” in votes for Moore “relative to the vote share of Republican Party straight-line votes.”

Rick Hasen, a law and political science professor at the University of California, Irvine, who specializes in election law, said Moore’s complaint had little legal merit. Under Alabama law, he said, a candidate for a federal office is entitled to contest an election only if the results are close enough to fall under the provisions of an automatic recount — less than a 0.5% difference between the candidates. While Moore could file a complaint with the U.S. Senate or file a federal lawsuit, Hasen said, this too seemed quite a stretch without any serious claims of irregularities that would come close to a 0.5% margin of victory.

“I don’t think there’s anything to it,” Hasen said, noting the few specific cases of alleged fraud Moore pointed to had been investigated and found to be lacking in substance. “It really seems to be a lot of smoke and no fire.”

Though Alabama has long been a solid Republican state, many moderate Republicans are wary of Moore, a contentious Republican who has stated that homosexuality should be outlawed and Muslims should be barred from Congress. He was twice ousted from his position as chief justice for violating court orders — first in 2003, for insisting on placing a biblically inspired monument in the state Judicial Building and then in 2016, for refusing to recognize same-sex marriage.

After defeating Republican incumbent Sen. Luther Strange in the primary, Moore’s campaign faltered after multiple women stepped forward to accuse him of pursuing them when he was in his 30s and they were in their teens.

Just a few days after the election, Moore wrote an email to supporters, declaring “this battle is NOT OVER!” and urging them to donate to an “election integrity fund”

In a post-election video statement posted two weeks ago, Moore claimed “immorality sweeps our land,” and he railed against abortion and same-sex marriage.

“We are indeed in a struggle to preserve our republic, our civilization, and our religion and to set free a suffering humanity,” he said. “Today, we no longer recognize the universal truth that God is the author of our life and liberty. Abortion, sodomy and materialism have taken the place of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

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