Judge Denies Request to Stop Write-In Ballot Count

Casey Kelly, KTOO – Juneau

U.S. District Court Judge Ralph Beistline has denied a request by Joe Miller to immediately stop the count of write-in ballots. In a written decision Wednesday, Beistline said he found no reason to stop the count, and Miller’s complaint would be heard in due course.

Tuesday, Miller’s Attorney Thomas Van Flein filed the lawsuit in federal court, accusing Division of Elections Director Gail Fenumiai of, quote, “ignoring the provisions of state law with which she apparently disagrees” and failing “to provide guidance on ‘voter intent’” for write-in ballots. The Miller campaign wants the division to follow state law literally, and only count write-in votes where the candidate’s name is spelled exactly as it appears on their declaration of candidacy.

Beistline gave both sides until the middle of next week to file briefs in the lawsuit.

Lieutenant Governor Craig Campbell oversees Alaska elections. He says the state’s position has been consistent all along that minor misspellings of a candidate’s name will be counted.

Campbell is confident the court will side with the state. He says numerous cases have set precedent that elections officials have some leeway when determining voter intent.

He added that state law only requires write-in ballots to have the oval filled in and the candidate’s full name or last name written as it appears on their declaration of candidacy.

Campbell praised the election workers who have come to Juneau from around the state to participate in the write-in count. He calls it “historically important.” Miller has criticized having the count in Juneau, but Campbell says write-in votes have always been counted in the state capital.

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