Miller: Ballot fight unlikely if math doesn’t work

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Republican Senate nominee Joe Miller is watching absentee ballots from military voters as he takes his next steps in Alaska’s still-undecided Senate race.

Miller, who visited the vote counting center in Juneau Saturday, said he doesn’t intend to spend a lot of time and energy fighting over ballots if the math doesn’t add up in his favor.

But he indicated that the military vote could go heavily for him. The deadline to receive absentee ballots from overseas and military addresses is Wednesday.

“I think to call the race, to say that their vote doesn’t matter, to forget about counting their votes, I think that’s an inappropriate approach,” he said.

Miller hopes to pull out another upset of Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who ran as a write-in candidate after losing the Republican primary to Miller in August.

The state has so far recorded more than 98,500 write-in ballots cast. Saturday marked the fourth day of a write-in ballot hand count that could stretch well into next week, with thousands of absentee and questioned ballots yet to be combed through.

The count Saturday showed Murkowski with 74,449 votes, or 89.6 percent of the write-in vote undisputedly — a trend that has largely held throughout the process. Another 7.9 percent was credited to her tally over challenges by Miller observers, generally for things like misspellings of her name or penmanship.

Murkowski’s campaign believes it needs to win at least 90 percent of the unchallenged vote to declare victory.

Miller’s vote total, as of Friday night, was 87,517.

Miller said he has not calculated what percentage of the vote would need to be challenged successfully for the race to be tight enough to possibly force a recount or make the prospect of a legal battle over ballots reality.

Numbers had nothing to do with the ballots being challenged by his observers; it was about ensuring a fair count and holding the state to the letter of the law, he said.

Election law calls for write-in ballots to have the oval filled in and for the candidate’s last name or the name as it appears on the declaration of candidacy to be written — in this case, “Murkowski” or “Lisa Murkowski.”

However, the state has been using discretion in determining voter intent, pointing to prior case law as the basis for this. It’s a practice Murkowski’s campaign has supported, and one that’s prompted Miller to file a federal lawsuit. Briefings in the matter are due next week.

Miller spokesman Randy DeSoto said the court fight would go forward “if the contested vote makes the difference.”

Miller’s campaign also has filed a state lawsuit, seeking access to lists of registered voters from more 30 precincts in order to count and inspect signatures “to ensure there was no possible fraud, mistake, irregularity or inconsistency.”

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