The special election battle over the Alabama Senate seat left vacant by Attorney General Jeff Sessions became a high-stakes race for both Republicans and Democrats. The GOP candidate's campaign was plagued by accusations of child molestation and sexual assault (which he denies), while the Democratic candidate fought the uphill battle of running on a liberal platform in a strongly-held red state. In the end, Alabama voters chose the Democrat, but Doug Jones might not be sworn in until 2018.
Because Tuesday's race was a special election, it will play out differently than regular Senate races. While the election was called for Jones Tuesday night, Alabama counties will have until Dec. 22 to submit their final ballot results to the State Canvassing Board. Although the board could name an official winner within a few days, the secretary of state's office expects them to certify the results by Dec. 29, CNN reports. However, any county experiencing delays in reporting results could push back the tentative date.
Once the State Canvassing Board formally declares a winner, the Senate will likely move quickly to swear in Jones after returning from winter recess. Lawmakers will reconvene in Washington on Jan. 3, so it's reasonable to expect Jones will be a sitting congressman by early January.
Despite the bureaucracy that could delay Jones' swearing in, other states have acted quickly to get the winner of a special election into Congress. When Jason Smith won a congressional special election in 2013, Missouri's secretary of state at the time, Jason Kander, certified to then-House Speaker John Boehner that Smith had won and could be sworn in the next day. Kander called on Alabama's officials to act just as quickly, tweeting Wednesday:
Rep. Smith is a Republican and I am a Democrat, and I could have waited weeks, but I did the right thing for MO. Alabama should do the same.
However, Alabama isn't expected to bypass the official vote count to put Jones in office sooner. For one, Alabama's special election was much closer than that of Missouri, with Jones pulling ahead by roughly 20,000 votes and one percentage point. Smith, on the other hand, won the open Missouri seat by a much wider margin, taking about 67 percent of the vote in 2013. Because Alabama's race was so close, Moore has yet to concede to Jones, and it's possible he could request a recount (if he pays for it himself).
Democrats in the Senate would like to see Jones sworn in quickly to help block Republicans' tax bill, and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and Sen. Kamala Harris called for a tax vote to be delayed until Jones is in office.
"It would be wrong for Senate Republicans to jam though this tax bill" without allowing Jones to vote, Schumer told The Washington Post. "That's exactly what Republicans argued when Scott Brown was elected in 2010 ... What's good for the goose is good for the gander, and what's good for the gander is good for the goose."
Sen. Chris Van Hollen, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, reiterated Schumer's point in an interview with MSNBC Wednesday morning.
He's now been duly elected by the people of Alabama. He should have a vote for them on the pressing issues of the day, which includes the tax bill.
However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters before the election he's "pretty confident that the tax issue will be dealt with by the current members of the Senate" before the new Alabama lawmaker is in office. Now that the incoming senator is a Democrat whose presence will make passing the GOP's proposed tax reform even more difficult, Republicans will likely push for a vote before the holidays.
At this point, Alabama's Republican governor and secretary of state are the only ones with the power to speed up Jones' move to Washington. However, neither has indicated that they plan to do so.