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Miller and Murkowski build legal teams before ballot count in Alaska

With write-in ballots — the vast majority of which are presumed to be for Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) — garnering nearly 41 percent of the vote in Alaska’s Senate race, compared to 34.3 percent for Republican nominee Joe Miller, why are both sides lawyering up in anticipation of the write-in ballot count next week? The answer hinges on a concept called “voter intent” and the efforts of Joe Miller’s legal team to question whether particular write-in votes were indeed meant for Lisa Murkowski or, well, someone with a surprisingly similar name, for instance:

The Miller campaign, which has 6.61 percent fewer votes than the number of write-ins cast, posted a statement Wednesday on its website saying it isn’t over.

“Previous write-in campaigns in Alaska have demonstrated that as much as 5 to 6 percent of returned ballots have not met the standard to be counted as a valid vote,” the statement said.

Amusingly, Division of Elections director Gail Fenumiai told the Anchorage Daily News that that the state doesn’t keep statistics on the issue, and she has no idea where Miller’s camp got the figure. The Miller camp gave no response when the paper asked where it had obtained the figure.

The state hasn’t been totally clear on which kinds of ballots will be accepted and which will be rejected, and that’s where the fighting will take place. Minor misspellings are probably going to judged acceptable, but anything beyond that could be the basis of serious dispute.

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