Murkowski on Pace to Defeat Miller

Murkowski on Pace to Defeat Miller

By Scott Conroy - November 12, 2010

Write-in ballots from 45 percent of Alaska precincts have been tallied in the still unsettled Senate race, and Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski remains on pace to finish ahead of Joe Miller.

As the Alaska Division of Elections was set to begin its third day of counting write-in ballots in Juneau, almost 98 percent of the more than 45,000 ballots counted have been awarded to Murkowski.

In order to pull ahead of Murkowski, Miller needed to deny her campaign about 12 percent of total write-in votes, but more than 89 percent of the write-in ballots thus far have been counted as unchallenged votes for Murkowski.

The Miller campaign has been challenging about 9.5 percent of write-in ballots, but 84 percent of those challenges have been denied by Alaska Elections Director Gail Fenumiai and counted for Murkowski.

The unsuccessfully challenged ballots have been isolated in a separate box pending possible future court decisions.

Ballot counting was expected to continue through Sunday and perhaps into next week, and officials will then have to count by hand absentee and questioned ballots. The Miller campaign is showing no signs of relenting, as it has continued to raise questions about the manner in which ballots are being tallied.

On Tuesday, the Miller campaign filed a lawsuit that sought to reject ballots in which Murkowski's name is not spelled correctly or ones that carry additional words written next to her name, such as "Republican."

Alaska law states that write-in ballots "shall be counted if the oval is filled in for that candidate and if the name, as it appears on the write-in declaration of candidacy, of the candidate or the last name of the candidate is written in the space provided."

Alaska election officials have pointed to prior case law to justify using their discretion in determining voter intent and have been counting ballots containing some -- but not all -- misspellings. Fenumiai said that she was counting misspellings if she could pronounce the name "Murkowski" by how it was spelled on the ballot.

A Miller spokesperson said that the campaign was highlighting any ballots that had "any deviation from the standard," but the Anchorage Daily News reported that Miller observers were challenging some ballots that appeared to be filled out using the correct spelling of "Lisa Murkowski" with the oval filled in correctly.

Floyd Brown, a well-known conservative activist who flew in to Juneau to advise Miller, has raised allegations of voter fraud. The Murkowski camp has denied the unspecific charges, deeming them an act of desperation.

The Miller campaign also announced on Thursday a second lawsuit it intends to file, which will seek to obtain voter rolls in order to cross check the number of ballots counted at each precinct with the number of voters who signed the rolls.

The Murkowski side remained confident on Friday and said that they expected Miller would not make up much ground as the remaining write-in ballots are counted.

Scott Conroy is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @RealClearScott.

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