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Federal Court Halts Alaska Ballot Certification, Sends Case To The State

As I suspected, the Federal Courts in Alaska want nothing to do with the Alaska Senate race right now:

A federal judge in Alaska on Friday placed a conditional hold on the certification of the results of the contentious Senate race between Joe Miller and Senator Lisa Murkowski, telling the Miller campaign to take its legal challenges to state court.

It was not clear that the ruling would affect the outcome of the race. Ms. Murkowski, who lost the Republican primary to Mr. Miller this summer but returned to the race as a write-in candidate in September, declared victory on Wednesday, after state election workers finished counting write-in votes.

According to unofficial results, Ms. Murkowski defeated Mr. Miller by more than 10,300 votes.

However, Mr. Miller has challenged 8,159 of those votes. His campaign has said the state’s policy of counting misspelled votes or those with other imperfections violates a state law that says a write-in vote will be counted if it is written “as it appears” on the candidate’s declaration form. State officials, however, say Alaska’s legal precedent dictates that they count votes if they can determine a voter’s intent. The different views are at the center of Mr. Miller’s argument in court.

The judge in the federal case, Ralph R. Beistline of United States District Court, did not rule on whether misspelled votes should count, saying only that the Miller view was “very possible” and that the state’s was “viable.” He said that the issue was a state matter and that his stay applied only if the Miller campaign took its claim to state court. He reserved jurisdiction in case federal issues arose.

Even without the challenged ballots, Ms. Murkowski is ahead by about 2,000 votes. Her campaign said Friday that the ruling would not affect the outcome.

Given the vote margin not including the disputed ballots, it’s hard to see how Miller can do anything here but delay the inevitable.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook