Alabama Republican Roy Moore might pull off a special election win Tuesday — but a majority of voters nationwide don’t want to see him actually serve in Congress.
That’s according to a new Morning Consult/Politico Poll, where 61 percent of voters say the Senate should expel Moore if he’s elected to the Senate based on allegations of past sexual misconduct, including one from a woman who said she had a sexual encounter with Moore when she was 14 years old and he was in his 30s.
That 61 percent number includes 45 percent of Republican voters. Another 29 percent of Republicans said Moore shouldn’t be kicked out, and another 26 percent had no opinion, or weren’t sure. Democratic respondents, 77 percent, overwhelmingly supported Moore’s expulsion.
The poll surveyed 1,955 registered voters nationwide between December 8 to 11, with a margin of error of 2 percent.
Republican voters were also split on the Republican National Committee’s decision to go back in for Moore. Fifty-two percent of voters said the RNC made the wrong decision to re-up its support for the Alabama candidate, with 34 percent of GOP voters saying it was a bad move — and another 35 percent believing the RNC made the correct choice.
Meanwhile, a majority of Republican voters, 62 percent, said a candidate’s policy positions are more important than a candidate’s character. That was true for 49 percent of Democrats and 48 percent of independents.
Voters might want Moore expelled — but it won’t be easy
The results of this new poll indicate that, whatever the outcome in Alabama, a majority of voters are uneasy about a possible Sen. Roy Moore. But the question of expulsion in Moore’s particular case is complicated both politically and legally.
Senate Republicans have said that, if Moore is elected, they may launch a Senate ethics investigation into the allegations of inappropriate contact with teenage girls, including molesting a 14-year-old when he was a 32-year-old prosecutor. The outcome of that investigation could lead to a recommendation for expulsion proceedings, which require a two-third vote (67 senators).
The expulsion process itself is exceedingly rare. Only 15 Senators have ever been kicked out, 14 of them for supporting the Confederacy. Other lawmakers have come under scrutiny since then, but resigned before they could be banished by their colleagues.
But Moore’s case is even knottier for two reasons. The first, as Vox’s Tara Golshan explains, is the Senate’s Select Committee on Ethics, which initiates the investigations into “improper conduct” may not be well-equipped to deal with matters of sexual harassment and assault:
Even so, sexual misconduct cases always have a lot of gray area. While the Senate Ethics committee has been tasked with investigations surrounding sexual assault in the past, it’s original creation was to address much more black and white issues:
“It’s geared toward a certain thing: Historically it’s all been corruption, embezzlement, fraud,” [senior fellow at the R Street Institute James] Wallner said.
Second, even if the Senate ethics committee can investigate decades-old allegations, the incidents occurred long before Moore launched his US Senate campaign. What’s more, voters in Alabama are ostensibly aware of the allegations — and would have chosen to elect Moore anyway. This puts the Senate in unchartered territory, as Golshan writes:
An investigation into his alleged wrongdoing would be an inquiry into accusations and actions predating his time in office. The people of Alabama know of the reports against him, and — should he be elected — they would have voted for him in spite of those allegations. It poses both an ethical and constitutional dilemma: Should the moral compass of those currently serving in the Senate be placed above the voters’? Does this Senate body even have jurisdiction to expel someone over actions that predated his term?
Any investigation by the often-secretive Senate Select Committee on Ethics will likely take months, so Moore won’t be going anywhere for a while if he’s voted into office.