November 15, 2017 04:12 GMT by nytimes.com

What Can Republicans Do About Roy Moore? Here Are Their Options.

What Can Republicans Do About Roy Moore? Here Are Their Options.

Ballots have been printed, and absentee voting has begun in Alabama, leaving Republicans with few options to stop Mr. Moore’s campaign for the Senate.

A growing number of Republican senators have called on Roy Moore to withdraw from the Alabama Senate race after accusations of sexual misconduct from multiple women, several of whom said he harassed or assaulted them when they were under the age of consent.

But with the Dec. 12 special election less than a month away, there may not be much the Republican Party can do. Here are the options.

Could Mr. Moore be removed from the ballot?

No. Whatever happens, Mr. Moore’s name will be on the ballot. Names cannot be added to or removed from a ballot for any reason within 76 days of the election, said John Merrill, the Alabama secretary of state.

“Even if he withdrew formally or if the state party formally withdrew their support for him or if he passed away, he would still be on the ballot,” said Mr. Merrill, a Republican who has endorsed no one in the race. “If that happened today or if it happened the day before the election, he will still be on the ballot.”

The ballots have been printed and were distributed on Oct. 18, when absentee voting began in Alabama, Mr. Merrill said. That means it is likely that some votes for Judge Moore have already been cast. “The election has long since started,” he said.

Could another candidate mount a write-in campaign?

In short, yes. Lisa Murkowski, the Republican senator from Alaska, was re-elected in 2010 after a write-in campaign, and met recently to discuss strategy with Luther Strange, the Republican who currently holds the Senate seat but lost a primary election to Mr. Moore.

Mr. Merrill said he believed no one had ever won a statewide write-in campaign in Alabama.

A write-in candidate has the built-in disadvantage of not being listed on the ballot. And there are prosaic concerns, as well, like spelling and penmanship. Voters would have to legibly write and correctly spell the candidate’s name in the appropriate blank space on a ballot.

“If somebody was trying to write in Joe Brown and they wrote in Joe Brownlee, that’s not ‘Joe Brown,’” Mr. Merrill said. “If they wrote in ‘Joe Browne’ and it was ‘Joe brown,’ I don’t know how the law would be interpreted in that case.”

Poll workers at the local level, where votes are counted, would have to know ahead of time which potential spellings of a candidate’s name were permissible. A lack of clarity could invite problems, Mr. Merrill said, drawing a comparison to the disputed 2000 presidential election in Florida.

“As long as you can tell what they’re trying to spell, phonetically, it should be counted,” he said. “You’re almost on the edge of getting in a hanging-chad situation.”

The bylaws of the Alabama Republican Party do appear to be clear on one thing, though: If Mr. Strange were to run as a write-in candidate and lose, he would then be barred from seeking office as a Republican for six years. This “sore loser” rule was adopted by the party in 1994.

Could the date of the election be changed again?

Gov. Kay Ivey has the power to set and change special election dates, but it would be extraordinary for her to take such a step so close to the date, especially after absentee voting has begun.

“I’m not aware of any time in the history of the state when the governor changed the date of an election when the election was already in mid-stride,” Mr. Merrill said. “We had a primary and a runoff, and now we have a general election in 29 days."

Governor Ivey has already rescheduled the Senate election once after she became governor following the resignation of her predecessor, Robert Bentley, amid a sex and corruption scandal. Before she would do so again, she wants support from President Trump, according to Republicans in touch with her camp.

If Mr. Moore is elected, is there anything Senate Republicans could do?

If Mr. Moore is elected, Senate Republicans could express their unhappiness by moving to expel him from the chamber. That process requires a two-thirds majority vote, or 66 votes, said Josh Chafetz, a professor of law at Cornell Law School.

“The slight wrinkle with that is there is a longstanding norm with regards to conduct that was known to someone’s constituents prior to an election,” Mr. Chafetz said. “The idea is if your constituents knew about it and approved of it, then who is the chamber to expel you for it?”

The Constitution gives senators the power to refuse to seat someone only if they deem the election results invalid or the candidate to be unqualified under the terms of the Constitution, Mr. Chafetz said.

The last time a senator was expelled was in 1862 when several of them pledged allegiance to the Confederacy. The last time a member of the House was expelled was 2002, when James A. Traficant Jr. was convicted of bribery.

If Mr. Moore does win and the Senate expels him, Mr. Chafetz said, Governor Ivey could then appoint a temporary replacement.

“In some ways it gives the Republicans a way to look pretty good,” he said. “They can get rid of someone they didn’t like anyway, they get to look like they’re doing nonpartisan ethics enforcement, and Ivey could replace him with an establishment Republican.”

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