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Alaskan court rules for Murkowski
Senate foe weighs federal appeal on ballot challenge
It is now up to Fairbanks lawyer Joe Miller, the official Republican nominee who has been challenging Mrs. Murkowski’s vote tally, to decide if he wants to fight on in the last congressional race of the 2010 midterm campaign still to be decided.
Mr. Miller, a favorite of former Gov. Sarah Palin and state and national “tea party” activists, fashioned a stunning upset of the incumbent in September’s GOP primary, only to see Mrs. Murkowski mount a write-in campaign in the general election Nov. 2.
Unofficial results showed her leading by 10,328 votes following a tedious, weeklong hand-count of ballots. The lead narrowed to 2,169 votes when ballots challenged by Miller’s campaign were excluded.
A federal judge, who had put a hold on certification to give the state courts time to rule on Mr. Miller’s claims, said he would give Mr. Miller 48 hours to plead any outstanding issues to him once the high court had ruled. Mr. Miller had initially filed a lawsuit in federal court, claiming the state violated the Elections and Equal Protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution in its handling of the race.
“We are disappointed the Alaska Supreme Court has ignored the plain text of Alaska law and allowed the Division of Elections to effectively amend the state election code, without even giving the public an opportunity for notice and comment,” he said.
The director of the state Division of Elections said the race could be certified within hours of the stay being lifted. The state and Mrs. Murkowski are eager for a rapid resolution; senators are sworn in for the new Congress Jan. 5.
Mr. Miller had appealed state court Judge William Carey’s decision to toss out his challenge to the state’s counting of ballots for Mrs. Murkowski. Mr. Miller maintained that the state should be held to the letter of the law, which calls for write-in ballots to have the oval filled in and the last name of a candidate or the name as it appears on the declaration of candidacy written in.
He wanted the results of the election to be invalidated and called for a hand recount.
The state pointed to case law in defending its practice of using discretion in determining voter intent, allowing ballots with misspellings to be counted toward Mrs. Murkowski’s tally. Attorneys for the state and Mrs. Murkowski argued that Mr. Miller was seeking to disenfranchise thousands of voters.
The high court, in its ruling, called voter intent “paramount,” and said “any misspelling, abbreviation, or other minor variation in the form of the candidate’s name on a write-in ballot does not invalidate a ballot so long as the intention of the voter can be ascertained.”
“The state characterizes the standard urged by Miller as the ‘perfection standard,’ and we agree that such a standard would tend to disenfranchise many Alaskans on the basis of ‘technical errors,’ ” the court decided.
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