Thursday, November 18, 2010

Although Lisa Murkowski Claims Victory, Joe Miller Files Injunction To Stop Certification Of Murkowski's Victory And Will Demand A Recount

Armed with the knowledge that even if Joe Miller's challenge of all 8,153 votes for Lisa Murkowski were to be accepted, Miller could not mathematically win the race, Lisa Murkowski formally claimed victory in Alaska's U.S. Senate race on November 17th, 2010, and the Alaska Republican Party, which had heretofore supported Joe Miller, called upon Miller to concede. However, concession appears to be the furthest thing from Miller's mind today. Not only has Miller filed an injunction seeking to stall formal certification of the election results, which would occur no later than November 29th, but intends to ask for a recount. The National Republican Senatorial Committee is not taking sides, saying that the election needs to be decided by the people of Alaska.

In the three-page injunction filed in U.S. District Court, Miller wants the state prohibited from doing the following:

-- Certifying the results of the 2010 general election for the office of U.S. Senator based on a count in which write-in votes were accepted as valid, on which the candidate’s name was misspelled, or was not written on the ballot as it appeared on the candidate’s write-in declaration of candidacy; or

-- Accepting as valid any write-in votes in which a candidate’s name is misspelled, or is not written on the ballot as it appears on the candidate’s write-in declaration of candidacy, in any further counts or recounts of the ballots in the 2010 general election for the office of U.S. Senator.

Miller attorney Thomas Van Flein claims the state's policy of allowing misspellings that show voter intent is a departure from past practices of rejecting such write-in votes. With the motion, Van Flein also filed an affidavit from former Lt. Gov. Loren Leman, who served under Murkowski's father, former Gov. Frank Murkowski. Leman said he would not have accepted misspelled names on write-in ballots. But current Lt. Gov. Craig Campbell, who oversees the Division of Elections, has said voter intent would drive acceptance of ballots and that previous court cases had supported that policy. In addition, misspellings of write-in gubernatorial candidate Robin Taylor's name were apparently accepted during the 1998 election; that never became a challenge issue because he finished a distant second to Tony Knowles.

Miller also intends to ask for a full recount. "...My campaign team and I were forced to pull together volunteer observers at the last minute, and did not have time to adequately and fully recruit and train them before counting began," he explained. "As a result, an indeterminate number of ballots with candidates' names misspelled were counted without being challenged during the first several days of counting." If there is any recount, the Miller campaign would have to pay for it; the state only pays for recounts if a candidate is within .5 percent of winning.

Joe Miller has contended all along that Lisa Murkowski's name had to be spelled exactly as it appears on the write-in declaration of candidacy in order for ballots listing her name to be valid. To support his position, he cites Alaska Statute 15.15.360 (11), which states a ballot oval must be filled in and either the candidate's last name or name as it appears on a declaration of candidacy written in. On the other hand, a section of the Alaska Administrative Code, 6 AAC 25.670(b), states, "Any abbreviation, misspelling, or other minor variation in the form of the name of a candidate or political party will be disregarded in determining the validity of the ballot, if the intention of the voter can be ascertained". So there's conflicting guidance.

And this may be the real reason why Joe Miller refuses to concede yet. He seems to be slowly coming to terms with the reality that Lisa Murkowski has won the election. Instead, Miller now is focusing more on ensuring the integrity of the voting process.

Murkowski campaign manager Kevin Sweeney had this to say in response. “Throughout this election, Miller has blamed everybody else. It was the media’s fault. It was his advisor’s fault. Then it was the Division of Elections staff's fault, the lieutenant governor's fault, and now he is blaming his own volunteers -- people who took nearly a week of their own to travel to Juneau and work on his behalf," Sweeney said. "I was there. I watched his volunteers. I thought they did a great job in doing what they were asked to do. They challenged every single ballot they could find a fault with. At some point he has to accept responsibility and that he lost and that he’s to blame.”

Reaction: As of this post, 728 comments have been appended to this ADN story, and they are overwhelmingly negative. Most people think Joe Miller ought to give it up now because they don't see how a recount could reverse the outcome. Of course, most of them are biased against Joe Miller anyway, so am not sure just how valid their opinion is. And 25 comments have been posted to the KTUU Channel 2 story, most of them negative.

If Miller is paying for the recount, let him press on so that we'll never have to wonder how it would have turned out.

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