Murkowski’s AK-SEN Lead Nearly Insurmountable — Miller Demands Recount

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November 17, 2010 5:06 a.m.

Write-in candidate Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) is now leading Republican nominee Joe Miller by 10,400 votes in the Alaska Senate race. Though the Miller campaign has challenged a portion of those votes, Murkowski is still leading by 2,247 uncontested ballots, giving her what seems to be an insurmountable lead over Miller.

But Miller is not done yet — his campaign is now calling for the Division of Elections to recount all of the ballots, not just the write-ins, by hand, citing “past problems with machine counting” that give Murkowski an edge over Miller since her votes were all counted by hand.

Murkowski launched her write-in campaign after losing the Republican primary to the tea party-backed Miller. Write-in candidates received 41% of the vote in the general election, which forced a count of the ballots to see how many were for Murkowski.Miller’s request for a hand count is a pretty big walkback from his previous assertion that he would not challenge an outright Murkowski win. Given Murkowski’s lead among unchallenged ballots, a clear Murkowski victory seems likely. Murkowski’s lead also renders Miller’s first lawsuit, over misspelled ballots, irrelevant.

Miller has also filed a second lawsuit in an effort to acquire voter registers in certain precincts, citing multiple claims of voter fraud since election day.

And according to the Alaska Dispatch, Miller spokesman Randy DeSoto says there is still some question about the ballots that have been tallied for Miller. “The count itself is also suspect due to past problems with machine counting in Alaska,” he said. “Given how close the vote totals are, Miller needs to be given the same opportunity of having all of his ballots inspected and counted by hand to ensure every vote cast for him is counted.”

The Anchorage Daily News reports that according to Division of Elections Director Gail Fenumiai, “recounts are done using the optical scan equipment,” and not by hand.

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If a recount were to happen, Miller would be required to cover the expense himself. The state of Alaska only pays for a recount if there is a 0.5% difference in the total votes for each candidate.

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