Alabama Senate Race: Moore and Jones Vote Amid Reports of Confusion at Polls

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Voters went to the polls at Midland City Voting Hall in Midland City, Ala., on Tuesday.CreditAudra Melton for The New York Times

• Alabama voters are going to the polls Tuesday to decide between Roy S. Moore, a Republican, and Doug Jones, a Democrat, in a special Senate election destined to be remembered as a strange and ugly campaign carrying immense political implications.

• Mr. Moore’s path to victory in a deeply conservative state has been thrown into doubt over claims of sexual misconduct with teenage girls. If Mr. Jones wins, filling the seat left vacant when President Trump appointed Jeff Sessions as attorney general, Republicans would see their Senate advantage dwindle to a single seat, putting their majority in play next year.

• But should Mr. Moore survive, it would illustrate the enduring limitations of Democrats in the South and suggest that the tug of partisanship is a forbiddingly powerful force.

• President Trump, who after initial reluctance following the allegations against Mr. Moore offered a full-throated endorsementtweeted his support: “Roy Moore will always vote with us.”

• Mr. Jones cast his ballot early. He will need strong turnout from black voters, urban voters and suburban white voters who might normally vote Republican.

 Mr. Moore rode his horse to the polls. He will need support from rural white voters. Read how his sexual misconduct scandal unfolded.

• Polls fully close in the state at 8 p.m. Eastern Time. Check back for live results then. Follow our reporters on the ground on Twitter: Jess BidgoodAlan BlinderAlexander BurnsRichard Fausset, and Jonathan Martin.

• Sign up for the Morning Briefing for politics news and a daily look at what you need to know to begin your day.

How did the G.O.P. end up with Moore? We take a look.

“For Republicans, it did not have to come to this,” writes Alexander Burns, one of our political reporters. Mr. Moore was never inevitable — read more in our outline of the decisions that Republican leaders made to bring things to this point.

Voting rights advocates report scattered complaints and confusion among voters.

In Ramer, Ala., about 20 miles south of Montgomery, a precinct captain was reported to have engaged a sheriff’s deputy to confirm the identities of voters after they had displayed one of the approved photo ID cards required by state law, according to Kristen Clarke, the president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

“Basically, they’re complaining about voter intimidation at the hands of precinct officials,” Ms. Clarke said. The Lawyers’ Committee leads a consortium of civil rights groups that are staffing a phone and email hotline, Election Protection, to field questions and complaints about the election.

Ms. Clarke said the hotline was investigating reports from voters who said they had received text messages telling them — falsely — that the locations of their polling places had changed. Some voters also were complaining that they had not received absentee ballots, she said.

Still others were confused about their eligibility after going to the polls or checking a state government website to locate their polling place and discovering that they had been designated “inactive” voters, according to the Lawyers’ Committee and the A.C.L.U. of Alabama.

John H. Merrill, the Alabama secretary of state, said those people were eligible to vote, but had been placed on a list of inactive voters after they failed to cast ballots in several elections. He said they could update their personal information at their polling place. “It’s not even a hiccup,” said Mr. Merrill, a Republican. “It takes less than three minutes for them to update their information.”

But Brock Boone, a staff attorney for the A.C.L.U. of Alabama, said the calls coming into that group’s voter hotline suggest otherwise. “This happened back in the primaries as well,” he said. “Individuals are going through hoops they shouldn’t have to go through to be able to vote, and there’s an issue with the way people are marked ‘inactive’ so easily.”

Most voters who complained to the A.C.L.U. were Democrats, but the problem could affect Republicans as well, he said; Republicans tend to call the organization less often.

Mr. Boone said officials in one largely African-American precinct in Mobile said that voters were being turned away when addresses on their ID cards did not match the ones on precinct rolls, contrary to the state’s photo ID law. “We’re telling them to just plow through — to bring other IDs, even utility bills” with current addresses, he said.

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Moore rides Sassy to the polls, cameras in tow.

Mr. Moore emerged from a stand of woods Tuesday astride Sassy, his Tennessee walking horse, about 40 minutes behind schedule. He was wearing a black hat and a grin, and keen to vote.

Gathered for the event at the Gallant Volunteer Fire Department headquarters, journalists and camera operators had expected Mr. Moore to come riding along the road in Gallant, Ala., but when he and his wife, Kayla, instead trotted out of a stand of trees, there was an inelegant scramble for the better angle.

Mr. Moore tied Sassy to a fence and made his way up to the polling place.

He was asked what he would say to his accusers. “I’d say, tell the truth,” he replied.

Eventually Mr. Moore disappeared into the little building, then emerged with an “I Voted” sticker. Reporters asked what his message would be for Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, if he were to win.

“Well, I’m coming to the Senate, and we’ll work out our problems there,” he said.

Photo

Roy S. Moore addressed the media after voting at the Gallant Fire Department. CreditBob Miller for The New York Times

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Jones, ‘exuberant,’ casts his ballot.

Wearing a broad smile and pronouncing himself “exuberant,” Mr. Jones cast a ballot for himself on Tuesday morning and leveled a final round of criticism at his Republican opponent.

Accompanied by his wife, Louise, and his sons, Mr. Jones strolled into the Brookwood Baptist Church in Mountain Brook, an upscale Birmingham suburb, picking up his ballot from a line of tables backed by a cross and a Christmas tree. Alluding to the state’s restrictive voter-identification law, he joked to his wife: “Louise, got your ID?”

Mr. Jones predicted black turnout would be strong and laced into Mr. Moore for comments he has made criticizing the constitutional amendments, enacted after the Civil War, that abolished slavery and gave broader rights to African-Americans.

“I think they’ve seen, within Doug Jones, a partner for a long time,” Mr. Jones said of the black community. “And they sure don’t see a partner in Roy Moore.”

Photo

Doug Jones left Brookwood Baptist Church in Mountain Brook, Ala., with his wife, Louise Jones, after voting there on Tuesday. CreditJustin Sullivan/Getty Images

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One woman says, ‘I even debated about going to vote this morning.’

It was 9 a.m. Tuesday, and Brandy Weston, 34, and her husband, Greg Weston, 45, had already gotten their voting out of the way, and were busy loading boxes of fruit onto the back of their pickup outside of their produce stand in Ashville, a little town a few miles from Mr. Moore’s polling place. Both voted for Mr. Moore.

Ms. Weston said she generally disagreed with Mr. Jones’s politics, and said she was disappointed that Mr. Jones used the allegations to attack Mr. Moore. “I don’t know,” she said. “Honestly, I even debated about going to vote this morning.”

But she did, and she made her choice on the theory that if the allegations were somehow proved, Alabama’s Republican governor could put another, less controversial Republican in the Senate seat for the time being.

“I’m tired of hearing about it,” Ms. Weston said. “Whatever it’s going to be, it’s going to be, you know?”

But one woman after another said the allegations against Mr. Moore bothered them at a busy polling station in Ozark, in southeast Alabama. Leslie McLeod, 27, said she cast her ballot for “Democrat Doug,” a reference to Mr. Jones.

“The other one is a rapist, and he said all the times were good was when there was slavery,” she said, recalling Mr. Moore’s remarks that the nation was last great in the era of slavery.

Mr. Moore insists that he did not molest teenage girls or make romantic advances toward them when he was an adult. He has not been charged with any crimes related to the misconduct allegations.

Tanya Embry, 36, also cited deep concerns about Mr. Moore’s behavior.

“I know this is typically a Republican state, but I can’t get behind somebody who is being accused of things like what he’s being accused of,” she said.

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Moore’s wife says some of the couple’s friends are black or Jewish.

When Mr. Moore’s campaign held its final rally in Midland City late Monday, it was Ms. Moore, the candidate’s wife, who grabbed the headlines with her attempt to inoculate her husband from charges of bigotry that have dogged him. But her comments likely raised more eyebrows than praises:

Fake news would also have you think that my husband doesn’t support the black community. Yet my husband appointed the very first black marshal to the Alabama Supreme Court, Mr. Willie James. When he first took office as chief justice many years ago, he brought with him three people from Etowah County; two were black, and one of them is here tonight. We have many friends that are black, and we also fellowship with them in church and in our home.

Fake news would tell you that we don’t care for Jews. I tell you all this because I’ve seen it all, so I just want to set the record straight while they’re here. One of our attorneys is a Jew. We have very close friends that are Jewish and rabbis, and we also fellowship with them.

 

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