ANCHORAGE, Alaska—Election night is over, but the controversy surrounding Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s possible lead in the U.S. Senate race is just starting, as the state Division of Elections announced it will start counting write-in votes a week early.
After Democrat Scott McAdams conceded to Murkowski and Republican Joe Miller, both sides have concerns about the division’s plans to start counting next week rather than the week after that.
Murkowski's camp says it wants to make sure minor misspellings of her name still count, while Miller says it's not fair to move up the write-in counting date so soon.
When it comes to counting the thousands of write-in votes, Murkowski knows nothing is official until it's official. She says she wants voter intent to rule.
“Is a ‘Y’ instead of an ‘I’ enough to throw it out? I would certainly argue that the intent of the voter was to support Lisa Murkowski,” Murkowski said.
Murkowski says the Division of Elections has not been specific about whether those kind of name variations would count.
“We had hoped that that would actually be made more clear earlier on,” Murkowski said. “We had requested for assistance and the Department of Law came back and said, ‘This is all speculative.’”
“I'll be the one to make those final calls, but I'll be consulting with the Department of Law before any decision is made,” said the Division of Elections’ director, Gail Fenumiai.
The division originally set Nov. 18 as the write-in counting date, but on Wednesday it announced it had moved that date up to next week -- which isn't sitting well with Miller, whose campaign plans on monitoring the count.
“Suddenly cutting a week off our prep time isn't proper, and I don't even know if it follows the regulatory framework that the lieutenant governor must follow,” Miller said.
The Alaska Republican Party issued a statement on the count Wednesday.
“We will be closely monitoring the ballot count process. As long as the counting process is done in a fair, open, and legal manner, we stand ready to embrace whichever Republican the votes show Alaskans have chosen to represent them,” the party said.
Even with election night, the U.S. Senate decision still lies in about 83,000 closely monitored write-in lines.
The Division of Elections said Wednesday that starting the write-in count process sooner is beneficial to voters, and that delaying the count until Nov. 18th denies voters information that could be available earlier.
Contact Jason Lamb at email@example.com