— -- While the final results in Tuesday's upset victory for Democrat Doug Jones in Alabama's U.S. Senate special election won't be known for a few weeks, the unofficial results from the race show that write-in votes may have played a crucial role in determining the outcome of the race.
Unofficial results from the Alabama secretary of state show Jones and Republican candidate Roy Moore separated by 20,715 votes and that 22,780 people wrote in a candidate, making up roughly 1.7 percent of the vote.
According to Alabama law, if the number of votes for write-in candidates are "greater than or equal to the difference in votes between the candidates receiving the greatest number of votes for the specific county office," the names of each write-in candidate will be officially tallied, meaning a detailed look at each person Alabama voters opted for instead of Jones or Moore will be provided.
While a major write-in candidate did not emerge in the race, candidates that may have received votes include retired Marine Col. Lee Busby, who was an aide to White House chief of staff John Kelly, and Nick Saban and Gus Malzahn, the head football coaches at the University of Alabama and Auburn University, respectively.
A liberal super PAC, American Bridge 21st Century, ran ads on Facebook in the closing days of the campaign urging Alabama voters to write in Saban and Malzahn.
Moore has not yet conceded the race to Jones, instead saying that he is "awaiting certification" of the result by the secretary of state. That process is expected to be completed sometime from Dec. 28 to Jan. 3, according to the Alabama secretary of state's office.
According to Alabama law, an automatic recount will be triggered if the margin between Jones and Moore is less than 0.5 percent. The unofficial results show Jones and Moore separated by 1.5 percent.
There are virtually no requirements for write-in candidates in Alabama, and after allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced against Moore, some Republicans suggested that voters write in a name as a way to avoid voting for Moore without supporting a Democratic candidate.
Alabama's senior senator, Richard Shelby, was one of those Republicans, telling CNN in an interview over the weekend that he did not vote for Moore and instead wrote in the name of "a distinguished Republican."