Write-ins to be counted sooner than expected

LAWYERS LINE UP: Murkowski, Miller camps gird for tally tussle.

By SEAN COCKERHAM and ERIKA BOLSTAD
Anchorage Daily News

Sen. Lisa Murkowski said Wednesday she’s confident that she’s won Alaska’s contentious Senate race but is starting a legal fund and bringing up election lawyers to fight an expected battle over the results. Joe Miller isn’t conceding defeat, and his campaign claimed to “remain optimistic” that he’ll win.

With all 438 of the state’s precincts reporting on Wednesday, results show nearly 41 percent of voters cast a write-in ballot. That compares with just over 34.3 percent for Republican nominee Miller and about 23.6 percent for Democratic nominee Scott McAdams.

There were 13,439 more write-in ballots cast than votes for Miller, who ran on a tea party platform with the backing of Sarah Palin. The Division of Elections has received 26,306 absentee ballots so far that still need to be counted and has 10,645 questioned ballots. State elections officials also need to open the write-in ballots and count them by hand to see how many of the voters actually wrote in Murkowski’s name.

But Alaskans could know sooner than expected whether Murkowski won. Lt. Gov. Craig Campbell, who oversees elections, said he’s moving up the opening of write-in ballots to next week. The state’s original plan was to wait until Nov. 18.

“I am elated at where we are as a campaign,” Murkowski said at her campaign headquarters on Wednesday afternoon. “I am feeling pretty confident right now.”

Murkowski spent more than $1 million on a write-in campaign after losing to Miller in the Aug. 24 Republican primary. Alaska Native corporations spent more than $1.2 million on her behalf.

Murkowski said she was especially proud of her results in rural Alaska and that more people cast write-in votes in Miller’s home district in Fairbanks than voted for him or McAdams. (The district where Miller lives is one of the less conservative areas of Fairbanks, with influence from the University of Alaska Fairbanks.)

The Miller campaign, which has 6.61 percent fewer votes than the number of write-ins cast, posted a statement Wednesday on its website saying it isn’t over.

“Previous write-in campaigns in Alaska have demonstrated that as much as 5 to 6 percent of returned ballots have not met the standard to be counted as a valid vote,” the statement said.

But Division of Elections director Gail Fenumiai said the state does not keep statistics on that and she has no idea where Miller’s numbers came from. The Miller campaign did not respond when asked where it obtained those figures.

Miller gave no interviews Wednesday. His campaign manager, Robert Campbell, told reporters on Tuesday night that lawyers are on their way to Alaska to help Miller battle over the numbers. “We have several teams in place that will hopefully be on the ground here shortly and we’ll start the process,” he said.

The fight would be over “voter intent,” with the Miller team questioning if a particular write-in vote was meant to be cast for Murkowski or not. The state hasn’t been clear on what’s allowed. Minor misspellings of Murkowski’s name are probably OK, but simply writing “Lisa M,” for example, could be an issue.

Murkowski said she’s starting “the Alaska Voter Protection Fund” to pay for her legal work. She said she’d be soliciting contributions.

Murkowski said her team will be led by Tim McKeever of Washington, D.C., who was Ted Stevens’ longtime campaign manager and attorney.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. WakeUpAmerica
    Nov 04, 2010 @ 21:33:25

    Boy, the fun just never stops up there in the frozen north.

    Reply

  2. AKRNC
    Nov 04, 2010 @ 23:32:53

    I know where they got the six percent figure. Joe is so ignorant, he’s thinking of the 6 point difference between Lisa and him in votes. What he is actually saying in regards to six percent of the votes being thrown out, wouldn’t have the effect he needs, since it would be equivalent to 2400 of Lisa’s votes being tossed. Face it, Miller has lost and is not going to go away quietly. He’s run a rotten campaign from the beginning, I wouldn’t expect him to start acting like a man now.

    Reply

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