Update: Federal judge places hold on disputed Alaska election
A federal judge has placed a conditional hold on the results of the disputed Alaska Senatorial race, giving Joe Miller’s campaign an opportunity to challenge the result in state court.
According to the New York Times, “The judge in the federal case, Ralph R. Beistline of United States District Court, did not rule on the question of whether misspelled votes should count, saying only that the Miller view was ‘very possible’ and that the state’s was ‘viable.’ … Even without the challenged ballots, Ms. Murkowski is ahead by about 2,000 votes. Her campaign said Friday that the ruling would not affect the results.”
Lisa Murkowski declared herself the winner of Alaska’s Senate race on Wednesday, but on Thursday Miller asked a federal judge to order Alaska to halt its certification of election results.
“An attorney for Joe Miller sought the injunction as part of a previous lawsuit challenging write-in ballots for Lisa Murkowski, the incumbent senator,” according to the Associated Press.
The lawsuit maintains that voters must write in the candidate’s name on the ballot exactly as it is appears on the declaration of candidacy. Law would require voters to write “Lisa Murkowski” or “Murkowski” for the vote to be counted.
But in the case that a voter doesn’t spell the name correctly or abbreviates the name, Director Gail Fenumiai says the Division of Elections would determine the voter’s intent.
“Now we are going to find out how many people can put nine letters together that somewhat resemble Murkowski,” KTVA-TV anchor Matt Felling told CNN.
Talking Points Memo’s Josh Marshall pointed out that Miller’s lawsuit seems to claim that voters who misspell Murkowski’s name actually support him.
“Prior to the election, people commented on radio stations and in the comment sections in blogs and newspaper stories that they would deliberately incorrectly write-in a variation of ‘Murkowski’ as a protest,” Miller’s suit reads. “So protest voters were trying to send a message to the candidate.”
Daily Mail Don Surber observed that Miller should be careful not to disenfranchise voters over simple spelling errors. “You go by intent, not some exclusionary interpretation of the law. If more people want her as senator than him, she had better win,” Surber wrote.
As of now, Murkowski holds a lead of about 10,400 votes. Miller has challenged 8,153 ballots. Even if a court rules in his favor, Miller would still be trailing.
The Miller campaigned complained that because the Division of Elections began its count a week early, they weren’t able to properly challenge ballots.
“[M]y campaign team and I were forced to pull together volunteer observers at the last minute, and did not have time to adequately and fully recruit and train them before counting began,” Miller said. “As a result, an indeterminate number of ballots with candidates’ names misspelled were counted without being challenged during the first several days of counting.”
Miller has said he intends to request a recount.
If Murkowski maintains her lead, she will be the first write-in candidate in over 50 years to win a Senate seat.