by Ted Land
Channel 2 News
1:14 PM AKST, December 10, 2010
An Alaska judge ruled against Republican Joe Miller's challenge to write-in votes in the U.S. Senate race. Judge William Carey writes in his decision that state statute allows flexibility.
The Miller legal team argues that a candidate's name must be written in as it appears on the individual's declaration of candidacy. Carey says use of the word "appears" does not mean exact spelling is required.
"Appears does not mean 'exactly,' 'precisely,' or 'perfectly,' but rather 'close to,' 'like,' or 'resembles.' If the legislature intended precision as insisted upon by Miller, a word like 'exactly' could have been used or the matter of spelling addressed," Carey wrote in his decision.
"The definition of 'appears' in this context does not require perfection or precision, but rather a close, apparent, approximation known to the viewer upon first look. If exact spellings were intended by the legislature, even with respect to the most difficult names, the legislature could have and would have said so," he continued.
Miller sued the state over the way it handled the November election and subsequent hand count of write-in ballots for Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who leads Miller by 10,000 votes.
"You're never entirely confident in any legal proceeding but when the judge shuts you down very clearly on all of the counts, this is a pretty strong signal to Mr. Miller that the allegations that he has made simply do not have merit," Murkowski said.
Superior Court Judge William Carey issued the decision from Ketchikan, where he's based. An appeal to the Alaska Supreme Court is widely anticipated by parties involved with the lawsuit, regardless of what Judge Carey decides Friday.
Miller's spokesperson Randy DeSoto said this in a statement e-mailed Friday evening:
"The purpose of the legal action is to ensure that the integrity of the vote is upheld. The Miller Campaign believes that every valid write-in ballot should be counted, but not those that fail to meet the standard established by the state legislature.
"Additionally, the core American values of equal protection under the law and fundamental fairness in this election require that the Miller ballots are counted and reviewed in the same fashion as Lisa Murkowski's, by hand, and that the final count includes only those who are eligible to vote.
"When we've ensured that these issues have been addressed, then we'll have an accurate count, and if Lisa Murkowski's tally is greater than Joe's, then he will certainly honor that result," DeSoto said.
Meanwhile, the state is asking a federal judge to lift a hold on certification of the Senate race and to expedite any remaining federal issues.
In court documents filed Friday, attorney Margaret Paton-Walsh writes that the swearing in of the new Senate is less than a month away and the state has a compelling interest in full representation in the new Congress.
"This cannot realistically be accomplished unless this Court lifts the stay and orders briefing of
any remaining federal issues contemporaneously with any appeal of the superior court's
ruling in the Alaska Supreme Court, which is likely to occur next week," Paton-Walsh wrote. "If certification is enjoined beyond the convening of the new Congress in January, the state will suffer significant and immeasurable harm through the loss of full representation in the Senate."
A federal judge halted certification in November so that Miller's case could work its way through the state courts.
Contact Ted Land at firstname.lastname@example.org
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