Judge allows Murkowski to participate in Senate election case

Posted: Friday, December 03, 2010

A state judge has allowed U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski a formal role in candidate Joe Miller's challenge to her November election victory.

In a ruling issued Thursday, Ketchikan Superior Court Judge William Carey said a last-minute submission by Murkowski of a legal document showing why her interest in the case could not be represented by the sate was enough for him to allow her to "intervene" in the case.

Losing candidate Joe Miller sued state officials in state and federal court, and won an injunction blocking certification of the results in that race. He had opposed Murkowski's attempt to join the case.

Carey said he initially had "grave reservations" about whether Murkowski met the state's requirement to participate in the case. He called her initial argument she be allowed to join the case "tenuous, at best."

After the last-minute filing Wednesday, however, Carey said her interests in the case are distinct enough from the state's to require that she be allowed to participate.

In Miller's lawsuit, he's seeking to force the state to disregard more than 8,000 Murkowski write-in votes, saying many of them were misspelled or otherwise improper.

Murkowski attorney Scott Kendall argued state election officials went too far in disqualifying ballots, and said that many of more than 2,000 rejected votes should have been counted for Murkowski.

Carey notes in his written order that the Alaska Supreme Court said courts should "liberally construe" the rules for intervention, and given that, Murkowski should be allowed to participate.

Under the tight deadlines Carey set for an expedited process for summary judgment, the case will be heard Wednesday.

A Ketchikan Superior Court Judge, Carey was assigned the case because Juneau judges were unavailable for the time period in question. He was a long-time Anchorage lawyer who was appointed a judge in the Southeast district by Gov. Sarah Palin in 2008.

In the battle over intervention, Miller found an argument to use on his behalf.

While he is arguing any write-in vote with the name not written identically as it appears on the write-in candidate's declaration of candidacy should be rejected, Miller said Murkowski in some ways agrees with him. That's because she's claiming the state was too strict in deciding which ballots to allow.

"Even my opponent contends that the (Elections) Division has failed to comply with Alaska law," Miller said Wednesday in a statement after the court hearing.

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

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