Miller opposes Murkowski intervention in lawsuit

Posted: Sunday, November 28, 2010

ANCHORAGE - Sen. Lisa Murkowski's rival in Alaska's contentious U.S. Senate race is opposing her motion to intervene in his lawsuit against the state's elections office.

In a response filed Friday, Joe Miller's attorneys said the state is the sole entity in dealing with enforcement and application of state law at issue. They also said Murkowski has failed to show that the state is unable to "represent her interests adequately."

In another Friday filing, Miller also opposed a request by state attorneys to transfer the case to Juneau from his home town of Fairbanks.

Fairbanks Superior Court Judge Douglas Blankenship scheduled a Monday afternoon status hearing on the motions. Earlier this week, he granted requests from Murkowski and the state to expedite the motions.

Murkowski mounted a write-in challenge after losing to Miller in the Republican primary. Murkowski has declared victory with a 10,328-vote lead, a total that includes 8,159 ballots contested by Miller observers.

Miller's lawsuit, filed in Fairbanks Monday, alleges Alaska elections officials illegally counted improperly marked write-in votes for Murkowski. He maintains a strict interpretation of state law bans any ballot that does not include a candidate's name as it appears on a declaration of candidacy, or the last name of the candidate.

Officials have accepted minor misspellings on write-in ballots, saying previous court cases have focused on interpreting voter intent.

Murkowski says Alaska will lack full representation on critical issues if she is not sworn in Jan. 3. She is calling for a quick resolution to the lawsuit, a point noted in the court papers filed by Miller's attorneys.

"Murkowski is not interested in a fair adjudication of the law - but is seeking to rush this court," the documents state. "Adding an additional party will only complicate matters, invite a multiplicity of additional filings, and make the entire process more cumbersome."

Scott M. Kendall, an attorney for Murkowski, referred questions to her campaign manager Kevin Sweeney, who did not immediately return calls for comment Friday.

In Murkowski's motion to intervene, however, Kendall wrote: "There are numerous critical issues facing our nation and Alaskans deserve to have full representation in the United States Senate." He also said Murkowski might not be eligible for re-election as ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee or any subcommittee on the Appropriations Committee if she is not seated promptly.

Miller, whose candidacy was endorsed by Sarah Palin and the Tea Party Express, sued in federal court with many of the same arguments earlier this month, but a judge ruled last week it was a matter for a state court. In that ruling, U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline said Miller's challenge raised serious legal issues, and he granted a temporary injunction halting the certification of the Senate election with the stipulation that Miller take his case to state court.

Miller, who has said he still has a chance to emerge the victor, has raised allegations of election fraud. Among them, he said, voters might have been allowed to take ballots even if they did not have identification or were not personally known by election workers.

Murkowski's campaign has noted not all of Miller's challenges resulted from a misspelling of Murkowski's name. Some were challenged because of corrections, such as a misspelling crossed out and then redone. Others were challenged because voters wrote "Murkowski, Lisa," or included an extraneous mark, such as an exclamation point, a happy face or a heart.

According to Kendall, some ballots were challenged because of what Miller observers deemed poor handwriting.

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