Posted: November 5, 2010
Alaska Recount Process
With 78% of the precincts reporting, Republican Joe Miller leads Democrat Scott McAdams 34% to 24%. But over 41% of the ballots were cast for write-in candidates. The obvious beneficiary of these write-in ballots is Republican incumbent Lisa Murkowski, who lost the Republican primary to Miller. But the official winner will not be declared until it is determined which write-in ballots actually are for Murkowski. This is a process that could take several days.
Election officials in Alaska only begin counting write-in ballots if they exceed, in the aggregate, the number of votes received by the highest candidate on the ballot or if this difference is less than the amount necessary for a recount. Alaska Admin. Code tit. 6 § 25.085. Currently, 83,201 votes were cast for write-in candidates and 69,762 votes were cast for Miller. Although there were 161 names registered as write-in candidates, Lisa Murkowski is expected win the bulk of these write-in ballots.
The next move for Miller’s camp may be to challenge write-in ballots counted for Murkowski on the basis of incorrect spelling. Minor misspellings are likely to be counted by the state but significant misspellings could lead to disqualification. Both sides preparing for a legal battle over the counting of the write-in ballots and Miller’s campaign recently stated that “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.”
If that is the case, then the margin of votes in Alaska might be enough to trigger a recount. Miller’s campaign will bear the cost of the recount if the margin between Miller and Murkowski is greater than 0.5% of their total combined votes. The state will bear the cost if the difference is equal to, or less than, 0.5%. Alaska Stat. § 15.20.450.
Any recount must be completed within 10 days. Alaska Stat. § 15.20.480. If a candidate wishes to challenge the result of the recount the candidate must appeal to the Alaska Supreme Court within 5 days of the recount certification. Alaska Stat. § 15.20.510.