ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Alaska's lieutenant governor on Tuesday discounted allegations by Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller that elections officials unlawfully interpreted voter intent on write-in ballots.
Lt. Gov. Craig Campbell, who oversees the state Division of Elections, issued a statement in defense of elections officials, claiming Miller's lawsuit threatens to cloud the vote.
"Mr. Miller continues to level allegations against the state of Alaska which are baseless, but if left unanswered, I believe could make members of the public lose trust in a lawful, reliable and consistent process," Campbell said.
Miller campaign spokesman Randy DeSoto said in an e-mail response that Campbell continues to ignore state statutes.
"The Lt. Governor has two job duties: protect the seal of the State of Alaska and conduct elections in accordance with state law," DeSoto said. "He has miserably failed in his second job duty."
Incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski embarked on a write-in campaign after she was defeated by Miller in the August Republican primary. The Associated Press called the race for Murkowski last week.
She now has a 10,328-vote lead over Miller, a total that includes 8,159 ballots contested by Miller observers.
Miller has claimed election officials began their hand count of write-in ballots a week earlier than scheduled, and that he did not have time to adequately train volunteer observers to challenge ballots.
Campbell said Miller has repeatedly attacked the state, claiming Alaska law requires the written-in name to be spelled perfectly and legibly.
"I do not agree," Campbell said. "While Mr. Miller claims that the state has gone outside its jurisdiction by using voter intent in counting ballots, we continue to point to various examples of case law throughout Alaska history, that show where the state courts have erred on the side of enfranchising voters when their intent is clear."
Campbell said it's disappointing that Miller continues to try to disenfranchise voters, especially considering that his campaign observers were present and they actively participated throughout the write-in counting process.
DeSoto, however, said Campbell has ignored state law by creating exceptions. Campbell argued in another lawsuit two months ago that lists of write-in candidates should be provided at polling places so voters could spell Murkowski's name correctly and have their votes count, DeSoto said. Campbell is taking an opposite position now that the election is over, DeSoto said.
"The Lt. Governor wonders why the people in this state question the legitimacy of the election? Had he done his job, and followed state law, the Miller Campaign would not have needed to seek court assistance," DeSoto said.
Miller sued two weeks ago in federal court seeking an injunction to stop the counting of write-in ballots that did not spell Murkowski's name exactly as it appeared on a declaration of candidacy. Miller modified the lawsuit last week, seeking to block certification of the results.
U.S. District Court Judge Ralph Beistline said Miller's challenge raised serious legal issues but was a matter for a state court. Beistline granted a temporary injunction halting certification of the Senate election with the stipulation that Miller would take the case to the state court.