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Joe Miller, Lisa Murkowski Teams Knock Heads as Write-In Counting Starts

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R) Alaska and Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Joe Miller.
AP Photo
AP Photo

Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski appears to have a solid chance of winning her long-shot write-in campaign for re-election as the state of Alaska today begins tallying the final votes left in the Senate race. However, her Republican opponent Joe Miller yesterday brought forward a legal challenge against the state's counting methodology.

This morning, the state will begin counting the more than 92,000 write-in ballots cast on Election Day, as well as the remaining uncounted absentee ballots. If the write-in votes (representing 41 percent of the total vote) were cast for Murkowski, she would have a significant lead over Miller, who captured 69,762 votes (or 34.3 percent of the total vote) on Election Day.

Alaska Senate Results
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Miller gained some ground yesterday, the Anchorage Daily News reports, after officials counted about 27,000 absentee and early votes. Miller now trails the "write-in" vote by 11,333 votes, and his campaign told the Daily News it remains "cautiously optimistic" as the state continues to count the about 12,400 remaining absentee votes.

While Miller's camp maybe optimistic, it's not taking any chances when it comes to questionable write-in ballots.

Alaska's lieutenant governor, Craig Campbell, said earlier that the state will liberally interpret the write-in ballots, accepting ballots with misspellings of Murkowski's name as long as the "voter intent" is clear. Miller last week accused Campbell of bias.

In a lawsuit filed yesterday, the Miller campaign said the state should throw out write-in ballots that misspell Murkowski's name. Miller's lawyer wants the court to respond to the suit by Noon today, according to the Anchorage Daily News.

The Murkowski campaign, meanwhile, told the Daily News that Miller's camp was "trying to discount as many votes as possible from Alaskans."

For now, the state plans to proceed with its plan to count the ballots. The counting will be conducted by 15 teams of two elections officials, with an observer from both the Murkowski and Miller campaigns likely sitting at each table, Alaska Dispatch explains. Once all the votes are counted, the new tallies will be released for three categories: the inarguable votes for Murkowski, the votes counted for Murkowski that are being challenged, and the votes not counted for Murkowski that are being challenged.



Stephanie Condon is a political reporter for CBSNews.com. You can read more of her posts here. Follow Hotsheet on Facebook and Twitter.