Miller files state court challenge

Posted: Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Losing candidate Joe Miller has filed a lawsuit in state court, trying to block enough votes for Lisa Murkowski to swing the election to him.

The suit, filed in state court in Fairbanks, aims to block any votes for Murkowski

The Associated Press last week called the U.S. Senate race for Murkowski, with a margin of victory more than 10,000 votes.

Miller observers at the write-in count in Juneau challenged a little more than 8,000 of Murkowski's more than 100,000 votes, leaving the incumbent with a lead of about 2,000 even without the challenged ballots.

Miller said a state law says write-in votes must be written as they are listed in the candidate's statement of write-in candidacy filed with the Elections Division to be counted.

By counting misspellings, the lieutenant governor and Elections Division "have violated the mandatory legislative requirements and fundamentally altered the election," Miller's suit said.

State elections officials were not available for comment Monday, but Lt. Gov. Craig Campbell, who oversees the Elections Division, said previously that the state's write-in vote counting process is based on what the voters intended, even if the spelling or format is not precise.

That's the standard Campbell said the Alaska Constitution requires.

"Time and again the Alaska courts have erred on the side of enfranchising voters and I would be shocked if that changed," he said.

The Murkowski campaign Monday sought to intervene in the Miller vs. Campbell case, saying it wanted to keep thousands of Alaskans from being disenfranchised.

"In order to ensure that the intent of the voters is fully honored and that every Alaskan's vote is protected, the Murkowski campaign will be intervening in Mr. Miller's baseless litigation," stated Kevin Sweeney, Murkowski's campaign manager, in a press release.

A federal judge last week imposed an injunction blocking Alaska from certifying the results of the U.S. Senate race, which it has planned for Nov. 29. The injunction was contingent upon Miller's filing suit by Monday in state court.

The Alaska Department of Law has not yet responded to the state court suit, but Elections Director Gail Fenumiai said last week that in the event of an injunction she planned to certify all races except for the U.S. Senate race on Nov. 29.

Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.



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