Murkowski Pulls Ahead in Vote Count As Division of Elections Ignores Law

Princess Lisa now leads by about 1,700 votes after Monday's review. There are still about 8,000 write-in ballots and 600 absentees to be counted. It's not looking good given that the Division of Elections is counting 97% of the write-ins for Murkowski, despite the fact that thousands of the ballots do not spell her name correctly, a requirement in the actual law.

Via the Anchorage Daily News:

The Division of Elections has now counted 92,164 votes for Murkowski and 90,458 for Miller. Murkowski's number will grow as the state continues to go through write-in ballots today, looking to see what name voters wrote on them.

[...]

"It's hard for me to figure that they would be able to look at these numbers and come up with any reasonable move other than facing the fact that Lisa Murkowski won the election," Sweeney said.

The Miller campaign insists that's not the case. Miller spokesman Randy DeSoto said he still thinks the court challenge could get enough votes thrown out for Miller to win.

The review of write-in ballots began last Wednesday and should essentially finish in the next day or so. The Murkowski campaign's numbers show another 10,000 write-ins remain to be counted. It predicts that Murkowski is going to end up with a total exceeding 100,000 votes given the trend of the count.

That could give Murkowski a lead over Miller in the 10,000-vote range once the counting is over.

Miller ballot observers so far have challenged 7,601 of the votes the state has counted for Murkowski. Miller has filed a lawsuit asking the federal courts to throw out the challenged ballots that are misspelled or otherwise not written perfectly.

But some of the ballots that Miller observers challenged were clearly spelled right and looked to be filled in correctly. So it's likely that not all the challenged ballots would be tossed, even if Miller ended up winning the lawsuit.

Miller spokesman DeSoto, though, said the race is still in play. He said he believes Miller and Murkowski will end up with about the same total of votes, if you subtract the votes Miller challenged but the Division of Elections counted.

Miller argues that state law doesn't allow misspelled votes. But the state and the Murkowski campaign say Alaska courts have indicated in the past that if "voter intent" can be determined from the ballot -- such as if a slight misspelling still produced a name that sounded like "Murkowski" -- that should be the standard.

Miller has said he would drop the fight if it was obvious he couldn't win. But his campaign said Monday that time hasn't arrived.

"At the end of six days of ballot counting, the race between Joe Miller and Lisa Murkowski is still very close," DeSoto said.

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