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Alaska Judge Shoots Down Joe Miller's Election Challenge

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In a Friday afternoon decision, Superior Court Judge William Carey ruled against tea party-favorite Republican Joe Miller on all counts in Miller's ongoing Senate election challenge. The Anchorage Daily News reports:

The judge found there was no evidence of election fraud and that there was nothing wrong with the state considering "voter intent" and counting misspelled write-in ballots for [Sen. Lisa] Murkowski.

"In interpreting statutes in election law contexts, the Alaska Supreme Court has emphasized the importance of giving effect to the will of the people as expressed in the exercise of their vote," the judge wrote in his ruling put out this afternoon.

The Miller campaign argued state law didn't allow misspellings to count.

State law says write in votes should be counted if the name "as it appears on the write-in declaration of candidacy, of the candidate or the last name of the candidate is written in the space provided."

The judge focused on the fact that the law includes the word "appears."

"The definition of 'appears' in this context does not require perfection or precision, but rather a close, apparent approximation known to the viewer upon first look. This seems to the court the far more reasonable interpretation of the term than the rigid meaning attributed to it by (Miller)," the judge wrote in his ruling. "If exact spellings were intended by the legislature, even with respect to the most difficult names, the legislature could have and would have said so."

The judge also disagreed with Miller's argument that the illegality of counting misspelled ballots is confirmed by Murkowski's own effort during the campaign to convince voters to spell her name right.

"He seems to suggest that a voter who really wanted to vote for Murkowski would have no excuse for getting the spelling of her name wrong. But of course there are many reasons why this might happen, whether they involve a village elder who had grown up speaking his or her Native dialect, a recently naturalized citizen, a person with any one of a number of disabilities, or someone who just mistakenly left off a letter in his or her chosen candidate's name," the judge wrote.

The Wall Street Journal adds that the Murkowski camp anticipates Miller will appeal Friday's decision to the Alaska Supreme Court, which may consider the case as early as next week.  The expedited schedule would allow Murkowski to begin a new Senate term when the 112th Congress convenes in January.

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