Alabama Secretary of State on Senate Results: “This is Unprecedented”

MONTGOMERY, Ala. - Alabama's Secretary of State says there's no way to compare this election to anything else in state history because there literally is no comparison.

"We don't have anything to compare it to because this is unprecedented in the history of the state," Merrill told WHNT News 19 in a sit-down interview.

Merrill says the vote is historic for many reasons.

"This is one of the largest write-in campaigns that's ever happened in the state in a competitive election. This is one of the most contentious elections in the history of the state. It's obviously the greatest percentage participation in the history of a special election," he says.

State Auditor Jim Zeigler, a fierce supporter of Roy Moore during the Republican runoff, says the fact more than 22,000 voters wrote-in alternative candidate names nearly baffles him.

"It's quite unusual to have a last-minute write-in to draw that many votes," says Zeigler.

Election night, Moore's campaign specifically referenced military votes, in hopes that receiving those ballots would increase their numbers. Merrill says he has no way of knowing if the potential number of overseas military votes could sway the election, but did say this:

"We hope we'll have the same level of participation that we had in the general election in 2016 when we set the standard for the nation with 84 percent of our military men and women casting absentee votes from their deployed locations," says Merrill.

After all the ballots are counted and Merrill's office certifies the vote - if the margin is not close - Roy Moore can request and pay for a recount.

"The last time that it happened that anyone is aware of was when Governor Bentley edged out Tim James in June of 2010 for the July 2010 runoff," says the Secretary of State.

In that race, Tim James requested and paid for the runoff.

Merrill says he doesn't predict any recount would change the results - not that the Moore campaign asked him that question.

"They're probably not interested in knowing my opinion about that," Merrill said with a laugh.

To have an automatic runoff, the gap between candidates will have to be .5%. Merrill says that isn't likely.

John Merrill also revealed a recount would cost somewhere between 1 and 1.5 million dollars. If there's an automatic recount, the state will front that cost. If Moore requests a recount, the campaign would have to pay for it.