Alaska Senate race: Murkowski files motion to counter Miller

November 24, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol 

(CNN) - Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R- Alaska) has filed a motion to intervene in Republican candidate Joe Miller’s lawsuit challenging the method by which the state’s Division of Elections counted write-in votes in the Nov. 2 general election.

Murkowski, who has already claimed victory in the race, also asked for an expedited decision.

“Joe’s reluctance to accept the will of the voters remains discouraging. We are certain the state courts can act on this baseless lawsuit in a timely manner,” Murkowski campaign manager Kevin Sweeney said in a statement.

“By intervening in the case, Senator Murkowski seeks to protect the thousands of voters that Mr. Miller seeks to disenfranchise.”

The country’s last undecided Senate election arrived in state court Monday when Miller sued the state over how write-in ballots for his Republican rival, write-in candidate Sen. Lisa Murkowski have been counted.

Miller’s lawsuit was originally filed in federal court, but a judge ruled Friday that it was instead a matter for the state court to decide. However, he did grant a temporary injunction halting certification of the Senate election. The incumbent Murkowski launched a write-in bid for the Senate seat after she lost the Republican primary to Tea Party-backed Miller.

The Miller campaign is now challenging the Division of Election’s decision to ensure the state law is followed, which calls for write-in votes to match the name of the candidate. He has argued that Alaska law does not allow the counting of misspelled names on write-in ballots. The Division of Elections set guidelines before counting began that allowed for a voter’s intent to be considered when determining whether to count a ballot for a write-in candidate.

After the court rules, the campaign has said it wants a hand count of the ballots.

The Associated Press called the race for Murkowski last week when she had a 10,328-vote lead over Miller, a figure that includes the 8,159 ballots contested by Miller observers. Not including those ballots, she has a 2,169-vote lead.

But Miller has not conceded despite the projections of Murkowski’s win and calls from Republican leaders asking him to end his bid.

In an interview with CNN White House Correspondent Suzanne Malveaux in the Situation Room on Tuesday, Miller said that there is a chance he could still win because “nobody really knows what the count is.”

He also defended his campaign’s challenge of the write-in ballots and the request for a hand count.

“I think Alaskans deserve to have a clear process, one that they can rely on in the future, and one that’s not gamed at the end.” Miller said.

- CNN”s Steve Brusk and Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.

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