Vote Counting in Alaska Gives Murkowski a Small Boost

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Alaska's Division of Elections is furiously counting 24,000 outstanding ballots in order to determine the winner of its Republican Senate primary. After the initial count last week, Tea Party candidate Joe Miller led current Sen. Lisa Murkowski by 1,668 votes. After Murkowski won 57 percent of the first batch of votes counted this morning, Miller's lead shrank to 1,325.

The state is hoping to count a total of 15,000 ballots today, which means that Murkowski should have a good sense of her prospects by day's end. She needs about 57 percent of the outstanding ballots to win, so if she maintains her momentum, she may have a shot. That said, most of the votes counted this morning came from the Anchorage area, where Murkowski is particularly popular. The largest chunk of ballots will come from southeast Alaska, which she won last Tuesday--but not by much. Miller, meanwhile, will be watching for absentee numbers from the Fairbanks and Mat-Su Valley regions, which he won by wide margins. 

Accusations have flown across the state during the past week, with Miller's campaign accusing Murkowski's of vote tampering and pressuring the National Republican Senatorial Committee to retract the legal aid it has offered Murkowski.

A resurrection via vote-count is pretty much the only option Murkowski has left. Even though Murkowski has denied rumors that she's considering a third-party run, Alaska's Libertarian Party announced yesterday that they would not allow her to run on their ballot, were she to ask (which she hasn't). The Alaska Independence Party, which has previously provided trounced Republicans with a third-party avenue, did not file for a Senate candidate and so cannot sponsor Murkowski. Her only non-Republican option would be to run as a write-in candidate, a nearly impossible feat.

UPDATE: The Mat-Su Valley ballots have been counted, upping Miller's lead to 1,460 votes.

UPDATE 2: Miller's lead has dropped to 1,294 votes, or 1.32 percent. Contested ballots from the Mat-Su Valley will not be counted until Friday.  

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Nicole Allan is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

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