Murkowski, a Republican who lost her party’s nomination to a Tea Party candidate backed by former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, flew back from Washington to speak to supporters at an Anchorage union hall Wednesday night.
After two weeks of hand counting 103,569 write-in ballots in a corrugated steel building outside Juneau, the unofficial count put Murkowski ahead by more than 10,000 votes. The Associated Press declared her the winner Wednesday afternoon.
But the man who beat Murkowski for the Republican nomination — Fairbanks lawyer Joe Miller — has not conceded, citing "irregularities" in the counting.
"Less than 1% of the vote now separates my and Lisa Murkowski’s total," Miller said in a statement. "If there is a recount and a consistent standard is applied to all the ballots, who knows what the difference would be. We need to uphold the integrity of the vote, and we need a consistent standard."
Miller’s math only works if he’s successful in throwing out 8,153 write-in votes his campaign has challenged because of misspellings or other anomalies. Discounting those votes still gives Murkowski 92,715 undisputed votes — a lead of 2,247.
As of Tuesday, Murkowski had 100,868 votes counted as valid by the Alaska Division of Elections. Miller had 90,468.
Miller spokesman Randy DeSoto said the campaign needed several days to investigate precincts with a variety of anomalies: precincts with unsecured ballot boxes, numerous write-in votes in the same handwriting or unusually high turnout.
"The math may ultimately work against Joe Miller, but if all those ballots aren’t counted for her, it might put us in a recount scenario," said Charles "Chip" Gerhardt, a Cincinnati lawyer brought in by the National Republican Senatorial Committee to oversee the vote-counting on behalf of Miller.
Gerhardt said the decision on how to proceed was now up to Miller. "Our role was to preserve the record … and preserve those ballots if at some point the Miller camp decides to litigate the matter," he said.
By Gregory Korte, USA Today – November 18, 2010
Photo: USA Today