Judge Clears Way for Alaska's Murkowski in Senate

Tuesday, 28 Dec 2010 08:32 PM

By Yereth Rosen

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - A federal judge Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit filed by Tea Party favorite Joe Miller that challenged his loss in Alaska's election for a U.S. Senate seat, clearing the way for state officials to certify Lisa Murkowski's historic write-in victory.

U.S. District Court Judge Ralph Beistline lifted an injunction he imposed last month that delayed certification.

"The injunction is lifted and the Division of Elections may certify the election results immediately," Beistline said in his order.

Miller had filed a federal lawsuit challenging the Alaska Division of Election's policy of counting write-in votes for Murkowski.

Miller claimed that the state's "voter-intent" standard, which allowed for ballots with minor misspellings and handwriting errors to be credited to Murkowski, violated state law and the U.S. Constitution.

Miller also alleged that there were various instances of voter fraud that padded Murkowski's lead.

The case was moved to state courts. A state Superior Court judge ruled against Miller, and the state Supreme Court upheld that ruling last Wednesday.

There is no reason for the federal court to contradict the state's highest court, Beistline said in his ruling.

"Generally speaking, the Alaska Supreme Court is the final expositor of Alaska law. That must be the case here," he said.

Miller, a Fairbanks attorney backed by the Tea Party Express and by former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, upset Murkowski in the August Republican Party primary.

But Murkowski mounted a write-in effort that mobilized moderate Republicans, independents and many Democrats. She wound up beating Miller by over 10,000 votes in the general election, or about 4.5 percent of the total votes cast.

The state, in a motion filed on Monday in the case, said officials hoped to certify the election by Wednesday and send the document, signed by the governor and lieutenant governor, to the Secretary of the Senate.

The signed document will be hand-delivered to the Secretary of the Senate by a state employee, and must be delivered by noon on January 3 in order for Murkowski to be sworn in for her second full term, the state's motion said.

(Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Peter Bohan)

© 2015 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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