Stick A Fork In Joe Miller, He’s Done

After three days of counting write-in ballots, the outcome in the Alaska Senate race is becoming rather obvious:

JUNEAU — The Division of Elections has finished reviewing the write-in ballots for nearly three-quarters of the precincts, and the results show Lisa Murkowski on track to be the first write-in candidate elected to the U.S. Senate since 1954

Ben Ginsberg, an election law expert who was flown to Alaska by Murkowski to advise on the count, said he was heading back home on Friday night.

“This is in good hands, and the outcome looks pretty obvious,” said Ginsberg, a top lawyer for George W. Bush in the contentious 2000 Florida recount.


The count stands at 98,565 write-ins and 87,517 votes for Miller after Friday’s tally of absentee and questioned votes. That tally slightly widened the margin of write-ins over Miller to 11,048 votes.

Nearly 98 percent of those write-ins are being counted for Murkowski so far. More than 90 percent of Murkowski’s write-in votes are not being challenged.

The Miller campaign has successfully challenged just 1.5 percent of the 69,249 write-in ballots that have been reviewed. The ballots unsuccessfully challenged by Miller are being segregated in boxes, and the courts could have the final say.

Here are the numbers after day three:

  • Lisa Murkowski — 62,434 votes (90.16%)
  • “Murkowski” — 6,338 votes (9.15%)
  • Other — 424 votes (.61%)

As previously noted, Miller needs Murkowski’s share of the write-in votes to stay below 89% in order for his legal challenge to have any merit. It doesn’t look like he’s going to be able to do that, which is probably why the lawyers that the GOP sent to help him in the count are heading home:

JUNEAU, Alaska – The lawyers have started leaving.

That is perhaps the surest sign that Joe Miller’s chances of becoming the next senator from Alaska are evaporating. With each passing day that election workers here in the state capital manually count write-in votes cast for Senator Lisa Murkowski, it appears increasingly likely that Alaskans spell too well for Mr. Miller’s math to work.

Assisted by lawyers sent by the Republican National Senatorial Committee, the Miller campaign set out to challenge every smudge, stray mark and misspelling they could find (and, often, only they could find) on write-in votes that appeared to be for Ms. Murkowski.

The plan was to question enough votes to close the 11,000-vote margin by which he trails – and then to convince the courts that those challenged votes should be discounted.

Alaska law says write-in votes will be counted if the name or last name is written “as it appears” on the candidate’s declaration form. But state election officials, citing legal precedent in the state, said they would count all votes in which they could determine “voter intent,” misspellings aside.

Now the dispute could become irrelevant. After three days of counting, the state has determined that 98 percent of write-in ballots were cast for Ms. Murkowski – and 90 percent of those were cast so cleanly that they have survived even the sometimes bafflingly strict scrutiny applied by monitors working for Mr. Miller.

Even if every ballot his campaign has challenged was thrown out in court, which is not likely, Mr. Miller could gain less than 10,000 votes. Several thousand absentee ballots that remain to be counted could help him narrow the margin, but not likely enough for him to win. The write-in count is expected to last several more days.

“The numbers are all on our side,” said Kevin Sweeney, Ms. Murkowski’s campaign manager.

Ben Ginsberg, a Republican lawyer who worked on the Florida recount in the 2000 presidential campaign and was brought to Juneau to work for Ms. Murkowski, flew out on Friday night. At least three of the seven lawyers that the National Republican Senatorial Committee hired to help Mr. Miller will have left by Saturday.

The vote count is likely to be over by Monday. At that point, when it’s apparent that Murkowski is the winner, the ball will be in Miller’s court. Either he accepts the inevitable and concedes, or he drags it out as long as possible.

FILED UNDER: 2010 Election, US Politics, , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held 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 contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. largebill says:

    At this point he needs to concede on Monday. His future in Alaskan politics is dependent on exiting this race gracefully.

  2. anjin-san says:

    The tea party flames out in Palin’s home state…

  3. Mr. Prosser says:

    I don’t think Miller has a future in Alaskan politics after the revelations of his shenanigans with co-worker’s computers and his on the record statements about getting the Federal government out of Alaska. I think he’ll be the dog in the manger on this one.

  4. Don’t forget the “Respect Mah Authoritah!” momment with Miller’s security and that reporter.

  5. wr says:

    Has Zels started his violent revolution yet?

  6. sam says:

    The tea party Palin flames out in Palin’s home state…