Just when Senator Lisa Murkowski’s election team was uncorking champagne bottles celebrating the win of her reelection, a federal judge ruled Friday in favor of Republican Joe Miller to halt the certification of the Alaska Senate election results. The judge, U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline, granted a temporary injunction against election offcials, in a case which Republican Joe Miller had filed because of alleged improprieties on how votes were being counted as well as starting the write in vote counting without sufficient notice so that trained election observers could be present.
Judge Beistline’s temporary injunction was conditional in that it stopped certification of the results as long as Republican candidate Joe Miller moved his case to state courts instead of a federal court by November 22. The judge is reported to have made a statement that he believed the state court was in a better position initially to apply Alaska law.
Although Miller’s chances of winning are a long shot, at issue is the way that write in candidate names have been written on ballots. Alaska law states that candidate names have to be written in as it appears on a candidates official paperwork to be placed on the ballot. Election officials, led by Murkowski family friend, Lt. Gov. Craig Campbell, have taken exception to the term “as it appears” and have decided that election officials will interpret the voters’ intent on their own.
This is not the first time Campbell ordered election officials to ignore the law. In August, both the Democratic and Republican parties filed a lawsuit to stop election officials from posting pictures of write in candidates with their names listed in polling places. This is specifically prohibited in Alaska law, but given the fact that many Murkowski supporters cannot spell her name properly it was clear to the plaintiffs and the judge that this was a blatant attempt to help Murkowski.
As this debate has heated up, what is being under reported is that former Lt. Governor Loren Leman, filed an affidavit on November 18th supporting Miller’s contention that the law was not being followed. In Leman’s affidavit he describes his time while overseeing Alaska elections as well as elections before and after his term. He states that misspellings, names that were written wrongly, or ballots that were marred or damaged would not have been counted. He goes on to state that when the courts have been involved, it was for “minor irregularities,” which in the end did not change the vote count.
Murkowski currently is ahead by over 10,400 votes, but over 8000 have already been challenged by the Miller campaign for being counted in ways that would not have been allowed by law in previous elections. Likewise, ballots that were counted without trained observers would be subject to review as well. If the final vote comes out being close, Miller has already said in television interviews he may request a recount. Hoever, his stated purpose is not neccessarily to win, but to settle the issue once and for all about how elections are supposed to be run so these types of things “do not happen in the future.”
Murkowski campaign manager Kevin Sweeney is confident they have the votes to carry the day. Until then it looks like the party favors and signed champagne corks will have to wait.
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Dr. Michael Williams writes for both the national Conservative Examiner and the local Albuquerque Family Examiner columns. You can follow him on Twitter: @drmlwilliams. To learn more about him or to see a comprehensive list of his articles and other published works go to drmichaelwilliams.com.