ANCHORAGE, Alaska — After six days of combing through ballots, the state Division of Elections is still working on tallying write-in votes in the race for U.S. Senate between Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Joe Miller.
With write-in ballots leading Miller by 11,000 votes and the state saying 98 percent of those counted to date were cast for Murkowski, her campaign expects victory. But Milller’s campaign has challenged about 8 percent of write-in ballots and sued the state over its means of determining voter intent.
At the close of business Sunday, undisputed votes for Murkowski stood at 78,697. Votes challenged by the Miller campaign but still counted for Murkowski were at 7,059, for a total 85,756. As of Friday night Miller had 87,517 votes, putting the candidates less than 2,000 votes apart.
While it’s been a monotonous weekend for ballot counters in Juneau, Murkowski staffers say they’re happy to see the same name written over and over again.
“I mean, our best guess is that at the end of all of this, Lisa Murkowski will be credited with seven to ten thousand more votes than Joe Miller,” said Murkowski campaign manager Kevin Sweeney.
The campaign hoped to have enough write-in votes to surpass Miller’s total Sunday -- but combing through thousand of ballots takes time.
“We are still working on counting the write-in votes; we finished early voting today and are working our way through questioned ballots,” said the Division of Elections’ director, Gail Fenumiai.
For the first time Sunday, Miller observers were able to snap photos of challenged ballots. Miller says he's shocked at the votes that are being counted.
“Here's another one that was approved apparently today, which is ‘Maryski,’” Miller said. “Another one here is an ‘M’ with a squiggle behind it, and then a whole series of ballots like ‘Murcaski.’”
Miller says the Division of Elections needs to follow state statute and only count votes for “Lisa Murkowski,” the name under which she registered as a write-in candidate. He says he won't pursue a win if it's impossible, but says if the division follows the law he will come out ahead.
“We're cautiously optimistic and we remain cautiously optimistic today -- our position on this has not changed since the votes started rolling in on election night,” Miller said.
The state’s response to Miller’s lawsuit on voter intent is due Monday. A second Miller lawsuit demanding to see election registers after alleged voter fraud is continuing.
Contact Jackie Bartz at firstname.lastname@example.org