Lawyers Depart Alaska as Miller’s Chances Dim

By WILLIAM YARDLEY

JUNEAU, Alaska – The lawyers have started leaving.

That is perhaps the surest sign that Joe Miller’s chances of becoming the next senator from Alaska are evaporating. With each passing day that election workers here in the state capital manually count write-in votes cast for Senator Lisa Murkowski, it appears increasingly likely that Alaskans spell too well for Mr. Miller’s math to work.

Assisted by lawyers sent by the Republican National Senatorial Committee, the Miller campaign set out to challenge every smudge, stray mark and misspelling they could find (and, often, only they could find) on write-in votes that appeared to be for Ms. Murkowski.

The plan was to question enough votes to close the 11,000-vote margin by which he trails – and then to convince the courts that those challenged votes should be discounted.

Alaska law says write-in votes will be counted if the name or last name is written “as it appears” on the candidate’s declaration form. But state election officials, citing legal precedent in the state, said they would count all votes in which they could determine “voter intent,” misspellings aside.  Now the dispute could become irrelevant. After three days of counting, the state has determined that 98 percent of write-in ballots were cast for Ms. Murkowski – and 90 percent of those were cast so cleanly that they have survived even the sometimes bafflingly strict scrutiny applied by monitors working for Mr. Miller.

Even if every ballot his campaign has challenged was thrown out in court, which is not likely, Mr. Miller could gain less than 10,000 votes. Several thousand absentee ballots that remain to be counted could help him narrow the margin, but not likely enough for him to win. The write-in count is expected to last several more days.

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