U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski said Monday her Republican rival Joe Miller may be creating doubt in the minds of Alaskans about the integrity of the voting process by ratcheting up the hyperbole about possible election fraud.
"I am really astounded that the Miller camp seems to be so paranoid of every step along the way, which is designed to ensure that every Alaska vote is counted," Murkowski told The Associated Press.
Murkowski reacted after Miller said he remained concerned about how Murkowski campaign workers have contacted voters.
"The concern that I have stated before is the concern of contacting absentee voters — finding out how they voted — and then just making knee-jerk challenges to those ballots in an effort to, obviously, having more of the Joe Miller votes thrown out on technicalities," Miller said.
Miller holds a 1,688-vote lead over incumbent Murkowski in the Republican primary.
An attorney for the Miller campaign, Thomas Van Flein, who's also Sarah Palin's attorney, formally asked Lt. Gov. Craig Campbell for an investigation into possible tampering by an observer for the Murkowski campaign.
In a letter, Van Flein claimed the observer at the Mat-Su Division of Elections accessed a state computer for about 20 minutes on Friday while absentee ballots were being verified. Van Flein said the observer may have copied voter information.
He questioned whether a hand-count of the absentee ballots should be required, or at least a review of the computer. He also requested Lt. Gov. Craig Campbell post Alaska State Troopers at counting offices.
The Alaska Division of Elections is scheduled to begin counting many of the 25,510 absentee, questioned and early ballots Tuesday. Not all were cast in the Republican race.
Murkowski, calling from Washington, D.C., where her son was beginning high school, said the questioning of the process may stem from a lack of experience with the election process in the Miller camp.
Miller also may be positioning himself to challenge the results if they break her way, Murkowski said.
Either way, it's damaging the integrity of the elections process, she said.
"It just seems that in the week since the election, it has just continued to be yet one more hype, one more mischaracterization, one more just trumped up rhetoric, that leaves people to think there's some kind of subterfuge or some kind of shenanigans going on," she said.
Murkowski said she has faith in the system.
"For someone who wants to be Alaska's Republican nominee for Senate, Mr. Miller is certainly afraid of Republicans," she said.
Campbell said he has discussed the Van Flein letter with Attorney General Dan Sullivan and initiated a review. He said the allegations did not require assigning troopers to protect ballots, but he has asked that assistant state attorneys be present when observers are on hand to make sure they comply with rules. He will make a decision later about hand-counting ballots.
Elections director Gail Fenumiai said there was no server for the voting program in the Wasilla office, so no one could have gotten into the system from there.
"I can assure that our ballot tabulation system was not compromised in any way, shape or form," she said.
In another development, the Alaska Libertarian Party's executive committee in an emergency meeting Sunday decided it would not consider swapping out its senatorial candidate for Murkowski.
Party Chairman Scott Kohlhaas said neither Murkowski nor her campaign staff had approached the Libertarians, but speculation was running high.
"It's distracting us from our task at hand," he said, which is to get a Libertarian elected to the state Legislature.
Kohlhaas listed fundamental differences he said Murkowski has with the party, including its backing of a free market economy and neutrality in foreign policy. Murkowski has voted for industry bailouts and pro-war legislation, he said.
While in the Alaska Legislature, Murkowski sponsored a bill that tied Alaska Permanent Fund dividends to Selective Service registration, Kohlhaas said, which runs contrary to Libertarian philosophy of self-ownership, not "state-ownership."
"We never got over that," he said.
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