AP: Judge Allows Alaska Vote Count to Continue

Posted November 10, 2010 at 7:15pm

Updated: 10:37 p.m.

A U.S. district judge denied Republican candidate Joe Miller’s request to immediately stop Alaska from counting write-in ballots in his Senate race, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.

Judge Ralph Beistline’s written decision said Miller failed to demonstrate the potential for irreparable harm if the state Division of Elections continues its count, which began Wednesday as scheduled.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski opted to pursue a write-in re-election campaign after Miller defeated her in the GOP primary. Miller’s vote total trails the number of write-in ballots cast for last week’s midterm election, but it remains unclear how many of the write-ins are for Murkowski and how many are for the 159 other write-in candidates.

Of more than 92,500 write-in ballots cast, 19,203 were counted Wednesday, the Anchorage Daily News reported. More than 89 percent were unchallenged for Murkowski, and Elections Director Gail Fenumiai said an additional 8.5 percent should count for the incumbent. The Miller campaign challenged those ballots. There were two write-in votes for “Joe Miller.”

Miller filed suit Tuesday challenging state officials’ decision to exercise discretion when determining voter intent on write-in ballots, and his campaign asked the judge to block the count. Miller argues that state law establishes two criteria for a write-in vote to be counted: The ballot oval must be filled in, and either the candidate’s last name or the name as it appears on a declaration of candidacy must be written.