Alaska's Legal Battle Begins

Just as The Atlantic's Nicole Allan has long predicted it would, the Alaska Senate race is beginning to enter its final stage: the legal battle.

Election officials are counting write-in ballots, with Sen. Lisa Murkowski seeking to hang onto her Senate seat via a write-in campaign that went, by most accounts, quite well. Write-in ballots account for 40 percent of votes cast, according to unofficial results from the Alaska Division of Elections, while Joe Miller collected 35 percent and Democrat Scott McAdams collected 23 percent. If every write-in ballot counts in her favor, Murkowski will win.

But it's not so simple. With 92,528 total write-in ballots to be counted, some ballots are bound to be thrown out, and Miller's campaign has filed suit in federal court to make such throwings out more frequent.

The Division of Elections had indicated that write-in ballots would count even if voters misspelled Lisa Murkowski's name, as long as their intent to vote for her was clear. Now, Miller is suing to force state officials to adhere to the letter of the law, the Anchorage Daily News reports:

Miller is asking a judge to stop the state from making a judgment on a voter's intentions if the voter wrote in something other than "Murkowski" or "Lisa Murkowski." State law allows no leeway for other spellings, his lawsuit says.

Here's how the law is written, via ADN:

"A vote for a write-in candidate, other than a write-in vote for governor and lieutenant governor, shall be counted if the oval is filled in for that candidate and if the name, as it appears on the write-in declaration of candidacy, of the candidate or the last name of the candidate is written in the space provided."

If Miller's lawsuit succeeds, it could pose a major problem for Murkowski. If it fails, more legal recourse could potentially ensue over the state's decision to provide voters with lists of write-in candidates upon request at polling places.

Presented by

Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.

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