ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Sen. Lisa Murkowski seems confident that she won re-election Tuesday night, but stepped-up efforts to count more than 83,000 write-in ballots have Republican opponent Joe Miller’s campaign asking for a delay.
Thomas Van Flein, the Miller campaign's attorney, sent a letter to the state Division of Elections discussing concerns about getting observers to Juneau for the write-in vote count, and the fairness of voter intent versus the law.
The state is already shipping ballots to Juneau in preparation for the count, which was originally slated to start Nov. 18 but has been moved up to next week.
“After every Election Day, the ballots are immediately shipped to Juneau through secure chain of custody and they're put in a secure ballot room,” said the division’s director, Gail Fenumiai.
In Van Flein’s letter, addressed to Fenumiai, the Miller campaign says it needs more time to get its vote-count watchers ready. It also raises concerns about definitions of voter intent.
“It’s not the Division of Elections’ decision to decide to now apply voter intent -- that issue is already decided by the state Legislature,” Van Flein said. “They passed a law, and the law says for a write-in vote to count, the oval has to be filled in and the name has to be written that matches the name on the candidate’s declaration form.”
But Fenumiai says the courts have previously ruled that voter intent comes first -- and minor misspellings are fine.
“We're not just going to be making decisions willy-nilly,” Fenumiai said. “We're going to be thoroughly looking at each instance, getting legal advice from the Department of Law, and making the best choice we can based on court cases too; court cases lately in the state are big on voter intent.”
“Who's going to determine what voter intent is, a state bureaucrat?” Van Flein said. “That's not the way our country works.”
Van Flein says he expects 30 to 50 observers from the Miller campaign to be needed in Juneau.
The Division of Elections says any write-in votes for Miller will count on his behalf.
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