Miller won’t try to block Murkowski Senate win

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Republican Joe Miller said he won’t stand in the way of Sen. Lisa Murkowski being certified the winner of Alaska’s U.S. Senate race, but he vowed to not end his legal fight over the state’s handling of the vote count.

Miller’s announcement late Sunday paves the way for Murkowski, the incumbent and a write-in candidate, to be officially named winner of the race.

He said he wants to ensure Alaska has full representation when senators are sworn in for the new term of Congress on Jan. 5.

U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline last month said the state courts were in a better position, at least initially, to decide who had won. He barred the state from certifying the results until the “serious” legal issues raised by Miller were addressed and said he’d remain available for Miller to argue any outstanding claims once the state courts had their say.

On Wednesday, the Alaska Supreme Court refused to overturn election results favoring Murkowski, saying it found “no remaining issues raised by Miller that prevent this election from being certified.”

Earlier this month, Beistline said Alaska should have a senator in place when Congress’ new term begins, even if that means later having to replace that person when all legal disputes are eventually resolved.

After the state Supreme Court decision last week, Beistline gave Miller until Monday morning to pursue remaining claims.

Though Miller said he would not oppose Murkowski’s certification, he said in a statement that the integrity of the election process is vital, and that the federal case “must go forward.”

“This decision will allow Alaskans to focus on bringing fairness and transparency to our elections process without distraction of the certification issue,” he said.

Miller contends the state violated the election and equal protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution in its handling of the vote count.

Murkowski mounted a write-in campaign, the likes of which this state has never seen, after losing the GOP primary to Miller.

Unofficial results showed Murkowski leading Miller by 10,328 votes, or 2,169 if ballots challenged by Miller observers during a tedious, weeklong hand count were excluded.

Miller wanted the results invalidated and a full recount.

The law calls for write-in ballots to have the ovals filled and the candidate’s last name or name as it appears on the declaration of candidacy written in. Miller believes the state should be held to a strict reading of that law, and his attorneys argued that spelling mattered.

The state, pointing to case law, used discretion in determining voter intent and allowed for ballots with misspellings to be counted toward Murkowski’s tally. Attorneys for the state argued that Miller’s interpretation would serve to disenfranchise voters.

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