Votes for Mickey Mouse, football coach Nick Saban and “any other Republican” were among more than 22,000 write-ins in the Alabama Senate election the Democrat Doug Jones won this month by a little less than that number.

Controversy surrounding Roy Moore, the first Republican to lose a Senate race in Alabama in 25 years, prompted the high number of write-ins: 22,852 in total, or 1.6% of the 1.3 million who voted.

Moore, a controversial rightwing hardliner who was endorsed by Donald Trump despite allegations of sexual misconduct towards a number of teenage women, received 651,969 votes.

Jones, who was certified as the winner this week after a legal challenge from Moore alleging widespread voter fraud and casting doubt on high turnout among African Americans, received 673,891 ballots: 21,922 more than Moore.

The outgoing Republican senator, Luther Strange, who was appointed to the post vacated by Trump attorney general Jeff Sessions but lost the primary to Moore, was the top write-in candidate in most counties.

State officials did not tally statewide numbers of write-ins but numbers submitted by counties showed that Strange received more than 7,500 votes, roughly a third of the write-in total.

Many such ballots followed the recommendation of the serving Alabama senator Richard Shelby, who said shortly before the vote he could not vote for Moore and would instead write in the name of another Republican.

Strange was followed by Lee Busby, a retired Marine colonel and former aide to White House chief of staff John Kelly, who was the top write-in candidate in at least 10 counties. Other names frequently written in included Sessions and Saban, the successful and revered University of Alabama football coach.

State officials stressed ahead of the election that voters had to write-in the name of a living person in order for the vote to be tallied. That did not stop votes for Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, Snoopy, SpongeBob SquarePants, Ronald Reagan, Jesus and “UR Mom”. There was also a vote for Sassy, the name of the horse Moore rode to the polls.

At least one person voted by write-in for Leigh Corfman, one of the women who raised an allegation against Moore, who is 70, about behaviour said to have taken place when he was in his 30s. Moore denied all such allegations.

Other voters voted for another woman, Dianne Bentley, who divorced former Alabama governor Robert Bentley amid accusations that he was having an affair with an aide.

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