Despite a last-ditch legal effort from Republican candidate Roy Moore, Democratic Sen.-elect Doug Jones has been officially certified as the winner of Alabama's U.S. Senate special election.
The State Canvassing Board — a panel made up of the governor, attorney general and secretary of state, all Republicans — met Thursday in Montgomery to sign off on the official election results.
With the certification in place, the U.S. Senate is expected to seat Jones on Jan. 3 as Alabama's first Democratic senator in two decades.
In a statement Thursday, Jones said the election marks a "new chapter" for the state of Alabama and the country.
"I am looking forward to going to work for the people of Alabama in the new year," Jones said. "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."
With Jones' certified victory, Democrats will now hold 49 seats in the U.S. Senate, cutting the GOP's narrow majority to 51 seats.
In a late-night filing Wednesday night, the day before the Canvassing Board was set to meet, Moore and his campaign filed an 80-page lawsuit seeking to delay certification of the election results over what they said was "potential voter fraud."
Moore, who has repeatedly refused to concede the election, sought a temporary restraining order to prevent the panel from certifying the election until an investigation could take place, but a Montgomery County Circuit Court judge declined to intervene.
In the certified results, Jones widened a 1.5 percentage point lead to 1.6 percentage points, defeating Moore by 21,924 votes after a campaign defined by sexual assault allegations against Moore.
The twice-removed Alabama Supreme Court chief justice has alleged there was widespread, systemic voter fraud during the Dec. 12 special election, citing several individuals his campaign identified as "experts." In the complaint, Moore's lawyer said they believed there were irregularities in 20 precincts in Jefferson County, where Jones captured a large margin of victory.
His attorney wrote that those 20 precincts, which typically lean Republican, saw higher turnout and a higher number of voters than usual choosing to vote straight Republican party but then choosing Jones individually. Alabama law says that votes for individual candidates trump party-line voting.
Jones and his campaign focused heavily on suburban Republican voters whom they believed would crossover, and in recent elections, including his election in 2012, Moore has typically underperformed the Republican ticket in suburban areas. On top of Moore's poor popularity in suburban areas, his campaign was also plagued with several allegations of sexual misconduct in the final month of the campaign.
In an accompanying affidavit Wednesday night, Moore said he took a polygraph test that proved he did not know the women who accused
Another portion of the complaint cited anecdotal testimony from a Montgomery County poll worker who said she saw a higher-than-normal number of out-of-state drivers' licenses while signing in voters.
Out-of-state drivers' licenses are valid forms of photo ID for Alabama elections, and Republican Secretary of State John Merrill has said his office investigated several allegations of voter fraud but he is confident those allegations were handled and discounted.
Merrill, who has implemented several Republican-led initiatives to prevent voter fraud including voter ID requirements, has repeatedly said his office has found no evidence of voter fraud.
Moore, however, stood by his allegations in a release Thursday after the results were certified. He said "election experts" from across the country agreed the election was "fraudulent." One expert cited by his campaign writes a JFK conspiracy and voter fraud analysis WordPress blog.
"I’ve had to fight not only the Democrats but also the Republican Senate Leadership Fund and over $50 million in opposition spending from the Washington establishment," he said in the statement. "I have stood for the truth about God and the Constitution for the people of Alabama. I have no regrets. To God be the glory."
Moore can offer to pay for a recount within 48 hours. An automatic recount would only be triggered if the margin of victory between the two candidates was less than 0.5 percentage points.