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Miller Takes Alaska Senate Race To Court

Helen Tobin |
November 23, 2010 | 10:29 a.m. PST

Staff Reporter

Joe Miller (Creative Commons)
Joe Miller (Creative Commons)
Joe Miller is not going down without a fight.  

Alaska’s Senate election went to state court Monday as Miller sued the state over the write-in ballots cast for his GOP rival Sen. Lisa Murkowski.  The Associated Press declared Murkowski the winner last week, with a lead of 2,195 votes, plus an additional 8,157 votes that are being challenged by Miller advocates.  

Miller’s case against the state argues that election officials are arbitrarily picking the standards by which Murkowski’s ballots are judged. Election officials have previously stated that write-in ballots will be considered by determining voter intent, but Miller argues that write-in votes for Murkowski must spell her name correctly in order to be counted.  

"State law is not a lunch menu where the lieutenant governor can pick and choose which laws he likes and will follow and which ones he doesn't like. Deliberate indifference to the law cannot be condoned," said Miller in a statement about the suit.

The state is citing case law in counting Murkowski ballots containing misspellings or those phonetic to her name."

Miller filed a similar suit two weeks ago in federal court, but a judge ruled Friday that the matter must be decided in state court.  U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline acknowledged in his ruling that Miller's campaign raised "serious constitutional questions," but said state court was the place to resolve the issues. 

The charges filed Monday are more severe than those filed in federal court.  The lawsuit argues that some voters failed to use proper identifications at the polls and charges that some votes were filled out by the same person based on similar handwriting.  Miller campaign spokesman Randy DeSoto said these occurrences were uncovered when the campaign reviewed the voter rolls over the weekend. 

The target date for certifying the election is Nov. 29. A re-count can then be requested by Dec. 4.  The Miller campaign has said he wants a hand count after a court rules on the standard by which ballots should be judged.  

Murkowski's campaign manager Kevin Sweeney said they would assist the state in defense of the lawsuit. 

"In order to ensure that the intent of voters is fully honored and that every Alaskan's vote is protected, the Murkowski campaign will be intervening in Mr. Miller's baseless litigation," Sweeney says in a statement.

The Alaska Republican Party has urged Miller to concede.

Reach reporter Helen Tobin here.



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