Polls close at 8 p.m. eastern tonight in the Alabama Senate race between Roy Moore and Doug Jones. The race won’t tip the balance of power in the U.S. Senate, but it could potentially impact the GOP’s effort to pass its major tax overhaul. Democrats typically don’t have a prayer in Alabama, but Moore is an unusual candidate. He has twice been removed from his position as a judge on the state’s Supreme Court for refusing to comply with the law; has attracted controversy for his beliefs that homosexuality should be illegal, Muslims should not be allowed to serve in Congress, and America would be better off it did away with the amendments to the Constitution after the first ten (think about that one); has made eyebrow-raising comments about race and Jews; and probably some other stuff I’m forgetting. And he’s been credibly accused of molesting multiple teenage girls.
The polls seem to show a dead heat.
President Donald Trump, a some-time skeptic of sexual misconduct allegations, once again today gave a boisterous endorsement to Moore. The Republican National Committee has also invested funds into backing Moore.
Moore rode a horse to the polls to vote today:
WATCH: Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore arrives to vote on horseback.
— NBC News (@NBCNews) December 12, 2017
In an Op-Ed yesterday in the New York Times, Scott Douglas looked at the race through the lens of the state’s Voter ID law, which has an ugly history:
The Senate election in Alabama on Tuesday is not just about the choice between Doug Jones and Roy Moore. It’s also about a voter suppression campaign that may well sway the result of a close race.
In 2011, Alabama lawmakers passed a photo ID law, ostensibly to combat voter fraud. But “voter impersonation” at polling places virtually never happens. The truth is that the lawmakers wanted to keep black and Latino voters from the ballot box. We know this because they’ve always been clear about their intentions.
A state senator who had tried for over a decade to get the bill into law, told The Huntsville Times that a photo ID law would undermine Alabama’s “black power structure.” In The Montgomery Advertiser, he said that the absence of an ID law “benefits black elected leaders.”
The bill’s sponsors were even caught on tape devising a plan to depress the turnout of black voters — whom they called “aborigines” and “illiterates” who would ride “H.U.D.-financed buses” to the polls — in the 2010 midterm election by keeping a gambling referendum off the ballot. Gambling is popular among black voters in Alabama, so they thought if it had remained on the ballot, black voters would show up to vote in droves.
And Mother Jones yesterday spotlighted the top election official in Alabama, who has some strong feelings about ballot access:
“If you’re too sorry or lazy to get up off of your rear and to go register to vote, or to register electronically, and then to go vote, then you don’t deserve that privilege,” Republican John Merrill said in an interview with documentary filmmaker Brian Jenkins. Jenkins had asked why he opposed automatically registering Alabamians when they reach voting age, and his response sizzled with anger toward people who “think they deserve the right because they’ve turned 18.” So he made a pledge: “As long as I’m secretary of state of Alabama, you’re going to have to show some initiative to become a registered voter in this state.”
It’s an ugly picture, including attempts to close the local DMV in every single county in which African Americans make up more than 75 percent of registered voters:
In recent years, Alabama Republicans have taken steps to protect their grip on power by making it harder for African Americans and Latinos to vote. They passed a law requiring voters to show a government-issued photo ID, a measure that has been found to disproportionately disenfranchise African Americans and Latinos, who are more likely to lack such an ID and face impediments to getting one. The ID law also applied to absentee voting, which is used by many elderly black voters in rural counties, who now must mail in copies of their photo IDs with their ballots. (The NAACP Legal Defense Fund is challenging the law in federal court as intentionally discriminatory.) They reformed campaign finance laws to weaken the political organizations that mobilize African American voters. They closed 31 DMV offices across the state, disproportionately affecting rural majority-black counties. In every county in which African Americans made up more than 75 percent of registered voters, the local DMV was slated for closure. (After a federal civil rights investigation, Alabama agreed to increase DMV service in rural African American counties, partially reversing the closures.) Since the US Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013, allowing states like Alabama to change voting procedures without federal approval, Alabama has closed about 200 voting precincts, creating longer lines and sowing confusion among voters.
Via Twitter, here’s a few reports from the ground in Alabama today:
Cop just arrived at the polling station I’m at here in Montgomery, Alabama. NAACP official told me that in previous Alabama elections, police have checked voters for outstanding warrants at polling stations, which can deter people from voting pic.twitter.com/3i1pf1uvnE
— Ken Klippenstein (@kenklippenstein) December 12, 2017
A lot of these popping up around Birmingham pic.twitter.com/DQae8mfA0p
— Jonathan Martin (@jmartNYT) December 12, 2017
“Judge Roy Moore called my daughter Patti Sue Mathis a pervert because she was gay,” his sign said. “A 32-year old Roy Moore dated teenage girls ages 14 to 17. So that makes him a pervert of the worst kind.” https://t.co/AUnhKZuPzN
— The New York Times (@nytimes) December 12, 2017
Doozy of an interview just now with Moore’s campaign manager:
Does Roy Moore think that homosexual conduct should be illegal?
— The Lead CNN (@TheLeadCNN) December 12, 2017