Alaska Senate Race: Is Miller Down for the Count?

The long, drawn out U.S. Senate race in Alaska should finally come to a conclusion next week. The Division of Elections will begin counting the more than 80,000 votes cast for ‘write-in' Wednesday in Juneau. Currently, ‘write-in' has a 7-percent lead over Republican nominee Joe Miller. That amounts to 13,000 votes.

There are still about 30,000 absentee ballots that will be added to the count Tuesday. Miller believes since many of the absentee votes are coming from the military he will cut into the lead. Even if Miller is right and the lead shrinks, he will be facing a steep hill to climb.

Alaska courts have ruled the spelling of a write-in candidate's name need not be perfect to be counted. It's the election worker's job to determine voter intent. In this race that would mean a vote for M-U-R-C-O-W-S-K-Y should count for incumbent Lisa Murkowski.

The question we posed to the Miller campaign is, ‘how vigorously do you intend to challenge votes for Murkowski that are close, but not spelled perfectly?' They continue to say they want to make sure the process is done accurately.

Meantime, Murkowski is not wasting any time assembling a legal team in the event there is a legal challenge. Heading that team is Ben Ginsberg who represented President George Bush in the 2000 Florida recount. Miller has not named his legal team. We have calls into the National Republican Senatorial Committee to see if it will assist Miller as it has done since he defeated Murkowski in the Republican primary.

Either way it goes the seat will stay with the Republican Party. Murkowski has said even though she did not win her party's nomination in August she is a life-long Republican and will caucus with the party in the new Congress.

If Murkowski prevails she will be the first of nine write-in candidates to win a statewide race in Alaska and only the second in U.S. history. Strom Thurmond did it in 1954. Like Murkowski, Thurmond was the best-known candidate in that South Carolina Senate race. He had served four years as Governor and only jumped into the race when the incumbent Republican died