The Daily Caller

The Daily Caller

Alaska court refuses to overturn sen. vote results

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The Alaska Supreme Court delivered another stinging setback to Republican Joe Miller, refusing to overturn election results that favored his GOP rival, Lisa Murkowski, in the state’s U.S. Senate race.

The high court on Wednesday upheld a lower court’s ruling dismissing Miller’s claims of impropriety in the state’s handling of the election and ballots for Murkowski, who waged a longshot write-in campaign after losing her primary to Miller. It found “no remaining issues raised by Miller that prevent this election from being certified.”

It’s now up to Miller to decide if the election is finally over.

A federal judge, who had put a hold on certification to give the state courts time to rule on Miller’s claims, said Wednesday that in light of the holiday he would give Miller until Monday to plead any outstanding issues to him. If Miller chooses to fight on, the state will have until Dec. 29 to respond, and U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline said he’d take the matter under advisement then.

Miller initially filed a lawsuit in federal court, claiming the state violated the Elections and Equal Protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution in its handling of the race. But Beistline said Miller’s claims about the state’s handling of the election should first be addressed by the state.

Miller spokesman Randy DeSoto said Miller’s team is reviewing the high court’s decision and weighing its options and chances of prevailing in the federal courts.

In a statement, Miller, an attorney and former federal magistrate, said his legal fight has been upholding the law and preventing the state Division of Elections from “seizing for itself the power to be able to affect the outcome of elections based on what write-in votes it chooses to count.”

Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, who oversees elections, said the state would be asking Beistline to lift his stay. The director of the state Division of Elections has said the race could be certified within hours of the stay being lifted. The state and Murkowski are eager for a rapid resolution; senators are sworn in for the new Congress Jan. 5.

Murkowski called the high court’s ruling a “great relief” and expressed hope the race could be certified next week. She told The Associated Press, in an interview on her way back to Alaska, that any further fighting by Miller would merely smack of “desperation. I don’t know what else to attribute it to.”

Based on the decisions issued so far, she said, “there is not a crack for Miller to pursue an opening.”

Miller had appealed state court Judge William Carey’s decision to toss out his challenge to the state’s counting of ballots for Murkowski. Miller maintained the state should be held to the letter of the law, which calls for write-in ballots to have the oval filled in and the last name of a candidate or the name as it appears on the declaration of candidacy written in.

He wanted the results of the election to be invalidated and for a hand recount.

Murkowski mounted a write-in campaign, the likes of which Alaska had never seen, after losing the primary to Miller; a win would make her the first U.S. Senate candidate since 1954 to prevail as a write-in. Unofficial results showed her leading by 10,328 votes following a tedious, weeklong handcount of ballots. The lead narrowed to 2,169 votes when ballots challenged by Miller’s campaign were excluded.

The state pointed to case law in defending its practice of using discretion in determining voter intent, allowing ballots with misspellings to be counted toward Murkowski’s tally. Attorneys for the state and Murkowski argued that Miller was seeking to disenfranchise thousands of voters.

The high court, in a 4-0 ruling, called voter intent “paramount,” and said “any misspelling, abbreviation, or other minor variation in the form of the candidate’s name on a write-in ballot does not invalidate a ballot so long as the intention of the voter can be ascertained.”

“The State characterizes the standard urged by Miller as the ‘perfection standard,’ and we agree that such a standard would tend to disenfranchise many Alaskans on the basis of ‘technical errors,’” the court decided.

Justice Craig Stowers, who recused himself, did not participate in the decision.

Miller also raised questions about voting irregularities, including precincts where election workers failed to mark whether they’d gotten voters’ identification and ballots with similar signatures. The latter may have been due to voters asking for and receiving legally acceptable help in casting ballots. He also raised the specter that felon sex offenders may have been wrongfully allowed to cast ballots.

Carey tossed the first two claims as unsupported. The justices agreed: “Pure speculation cannot support a fishing expedition for evidence to oppose summary judgment in an election contest.”

Carey didn’t rule on the third claim, raised late by Miller. Miller’s attorney argued Miller should have been given further time to investigate all the concerns.

The high court remanded to Superior Court Miller’s claim that felons may have wrongfully cast ballots, should Miller wish to pursue it. But it said he’d first have to prove that the votes in question are sufficient to change the election’s outcome.

“In light of our other rulings and the current voting tally, it appears to us that the number of votes in question would have to be in the tens of thousands to change the result of the election,” the court said.

  • loudog

    REFUDIATED! Perhaps Alaskas had enough.

  • opaobie

    …and speaking of “disenfranchisement”, who tries every election to keep the military absentee votes from being counted and then sends in legions of lawyers to challenge the ones that actually make it through all the roadblocks? It certainly isn’t TEA Party members.

    • craigiri

      >t certainly isn’t TEA Party members.

      YOu better do some reading on the 2000 elections in FL and the 2004 elections in Ohio….well, you don’t even have to go back that far. Look at 2010 in Alaska. The Tea Party LOVES lots of lawyers……..it would be too manly for Joe to simply concede that he was stomped by a write-in.

  • talibangelical

    Oh come on, why would anyone care about voter intent?? That is now what elections are about. I really wish an activist judge would come to the rescue of this career bureaucrat.

    I mean who knows more about a government than a career govt employee with a history of taking medicaid, farm subsidies, unemployment and other handouts from the taxpayer’s public trough??

    Keep fighting Joe! Clog up the legal system. Real jobs are for other people.

  • b1jetmech

    Because of the Tea Party which is less then two years old. The Republicans gained 63 seats in the house and 4 in the senate when more republicans were up for re-election in the senate the democrats.

    Plus the GOP gained 600 more state house seats nation wide leaves a logical person to think the TEA party is very effective.

    Just thought you left out these little details.

    • talibangelical

      And Mr. Boner thanks you very much and now asks that you go away so he can get back to business as usual.

    • SargeH

      Because of the Tea Party, the Republicans lost Senate seats in Delaware, Colorado, California and Nevada and numerous House races.

      • opaobie

        “Because of the Tea Party, the RINOs lost Senate seats in Delaware, Colorado, California and Nevada and numerous House races.”…there, I fixed it for you.

        …no real loss anyway, and probably a good lesson for the future. It might make the Conservatives work harder in the primaries for 2012.

  • craigiri

    Tea Party is not a story in 2011.
    It is well done. Put a fork in it.

    The funny thing is, they now think they have power! Can you imagine that? They are about to learn a hard lesson – of course, 70% plus of the country could not care less about them. The other 30% are the Bush Lovers and some of the GOP….those who USED you tea party types to get what they want.

    American centrists do not like fundamentalists, idiots or ideologues. The Tea Party was largely created with corporate money and was simply a way to oppose Obama and to try to get power for republicans without mentioning the Bush name or legacy.

    Miller – good riddance – Palins money and influence got you what you deserved – a big loss. You are especially a big loser because you fell to someone who was not even on the ballot! That takes real talent.

    • flips

      Wall Street billionaires duped dumb, angry, struggling middle class whites into lobbying for tax cuts for the rich.

      Mission Accomplished.

      They have no use for the Tea Party now. But they may revive their flying monkey brigade again in two years when the tax cuts for the rich are threatened.

      And since FoxNews will tell them to sign up, they will.
      (Against their own economic interests.)

      • b1jetmech

        Hey flips, your leftist talking points are as old as Lenin’s mummified body.

        Tax cuts for the rich?

        Come on they pay way more percentage wise then your sorry @ss and remember, Obama did what he could to keep the Bush tax rates for them. Why didn’t Obama go for the Clinton taxes rates…huh? He would have automatically gotten them when the Bush tax rates expired. Guess tax cuts are good for society as a whole after all unless your a liberal who lives life full of envy.

        • bozsbusiness

          Good point on “Clinton” tax rates. Obama calling Bush rates “obama cuts”, what a joke.

    • JDoe

      @ “craigie/flips” (Well known to be one in the same, and your OBIVIOUS “chatting with one another is TRULY bizarre!)…..let me just add this

      to your “two sided discussion”……………..

      Me thinks thou doth protest TOO much. ;-)

      • craigiri

        @ “craigie/flips” (Well known to be one in the same, and your OBIVIOUS “chatting with one another is TRULY bizarre!)…..let me just add

        i’m afraid u are wrong again. the 100 million people who read the huffpost, nytimes, cnn, etc are not the very same person. I know it helps to think that others are just like you….but they are not.

        Tea Party is over. What “movement” are you going to have next?

  • flips

    Wow.

    Tough week for teabaggers, and it’s only Wednesday.

    Here is the decision.
    http://electionlawblog.org/archives/Miller%20v%20Treadwell%20decision.pdf

    “Miller urges that only his interpretation of the statute will “preserv[e] the integrity of the electoral process as a whole.” But it is Miller’s interpretation of the statute that would erode the integrity of the election system, because it would result in disenfranchisement of some voters and ultimately rejection of election results that constitute the will of the people. We have consistently construed election statutes in favor of voter enfranchisement.”

    • opaobie

      …and to prove it, they even put Blank Panthers in paramilitary uniforms brandishing clubs in front of polling places to make sure no illegals, criminals, terrorists, or Martians are “disenfranchised”…but you Conservative, Bible-thumping, gun-toting Rednecks, STAY OUT!!!

      • SargeH

        opaDopey: You’re really having a bad day. First you were confused about how the Tea Party candidates fared in losing several Senate seats, and now you saw Black Panthers at polling places in Alaska intimidating pro-Miller voters.

        By the way, I’m a “Conservative, Bible-thumping, gun-toter.” I just don’t dive into the abyss of group think.