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Alaska Senate Passes Voter Intent Bill

February 14, 2011

Casey Kelly, KTOO – Juneau

Monday morning, the Alaska Senate unanimously passed legislation ensuring a voter intent priority for the counting of write-in ballots.

The bill clears up state election law, which failed U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller sued over after last fall’s race in Alaska. Miller argued that ballots cast for his rival, Senator Lisa Murkowski, should be thrown out if voters didn’t perfectly write in her name. State and federal judges disagreed, but said the current statute is poorly worded and recommended clarifying it.

Bill sponsor Fairbanks Democrat Joe Thomas says the language of the bill is almost identical to federal legislation for the counting of write-in votes.

Anchorage Democrat Bill Wielechowski says the bill should prevent further disputes, and keep the state from having to defend the statute in court. The attorney general’s office estimated it spent about $100,000 defending the law from Miller’s challenges.

Miller threatened to take his case to the U.S. Supreme Court, but ultimately stopped at the federal district court level.

The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for its consideration.

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