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Alaska's Flight Looking Luke Florida's 'Hanging Chads' WarBrian Fitzpatrick Special to Salem-News.com
Senate race headed for court on vote-counting technicalities.
(WASHINGTON D.C.) - The Alaska Senate race is looking more and more like the Bush vs. Gore hanging chad war of 2000, as GOP candidate Joe Miller plans to head to court.
Incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who lost to Miller in the Republican primary, staged a write-in campaign that may have enough votes to win - but the outcome could hinge on how the votes are counted.
Miller told WND today he intends to go to court to force the Alaska Division of Elections to follow the letter of the law in conducting the vote count, especially in counting write-in ballots.
"There appears to be an intention not to follow the state statutes," Miller told WND. He said his campaign wants the state Division of Elections to establish a formal standard that follows the state's written election law, rather than "changing the rules on the fly."
Miller received about 70,000, or 34 percent, of the votes on Election Day. Another 83,000 votes, or 41 percent, are write-ins that have yet to be counted. About 160 Alaskans qualified as write-in candidates.
According to Alaska statute AS15.15.360(11), "A vote for a write-in candidate, other than a write-in vote for governor and lieutenant governor, 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."
Miller told WND the statute means a voter must reproduce at least the candidate's last name on the ballot exactly as the name appears in the declaration of candidacy, down to proper spelling.
"Sen. Murkowski acknowledged in her campaign that her name had to be spelled correctly," said Miller. "Many of her campaign ads focused on how to spell her name."
Gail Fenumiai, the director of the Alaska Division of Elections, however, may plan to count votes if she can divine what the voter meant.
"If I can determine voter intent, then the ballot would be counted accordingly," Fenumiai told the New York Times in September.
Fenumiai did not return calls from WND.
Determining intent may not be as easy as it sounds, at least as far as misspelling is concerned. An Anchorage radio talk show host, Dan Fagan, encouraged his listeners to write in Murkowski's name, but spelled incorrectly, as a protest against her write-in candidacy.
In another twist, Alaska Lt. Gov. Craig Campbell, who oversees the Division of Elections, told CBS News that any write-in votes for Miller would be thrown out. The Miller campaign replied that throwing out such ballots would be "clearly " violate another election statute, and Campbell backed down.
Miller also accused Campbell of moving up the vote-counting date by more than a week, before the Miller campaign could assemble a team and prepare to monitor the count.
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