From Sean Cockerham in Anchorage –
Update, 5:21 p.m.:
Miller spokesman Randy DeSoto just said the decision on whether to appeal to the Alaska Supreme Court is “under advisement.”
DeSoto also sent out the following email in response to the judge's ruling:
"The purpose of the legal action is to ensure that the integrity of the vote is upheld. The Miller Campaign believes that every valid write-in ballot should be counted, but not those that fail to meet the standard established by the state legislature. Additionally, the core American values of equal protection under the law and fundamental fairness in this election require that the Miller ballots are counted and reviewed in the same fashion as Lisa Murkowski's, by hand, and that the final count includes only those who are eligible to vote. When we've ensured that these issues have been addressed, then we'll have an accurate count, and if Lisa Murkowski's tally is greater than Joe's, then he will certainly honor that result."
Update, 3:35 p.m.:
Superior Court Judge William Carey ruled against Joe Miller on all counts.
The judge found there was no evidence of election fraud and that there was nothing wrong with the state considering "voter intent" and counting misspelled write-in ballots for Murkowski.
"In interpreting statutes in election law contexts, the Alaska Supreme Court has emphasized the importance of giving effect to the will of the people as expressed in the exercise of their vote," the judge wrote in his ruling put out this afternoon.
The Miller campaign argued state law didn't allow misspellings to count.
State law says write in votes should be counted if the name "as it appears on the write-in declaration of candidacy, of the candidate or the last name of the candidate is written in the space provided."
The judge focused on the fact that the law includes the word "appears."
"The definition of 'appears' in this context does not require perfection or precision, but rather a close, apparent approximation known to the viewer upon first look. This seems to the court the far more reasonable interpretation of the term than the rigid meaning attributed to it by (Miller)," the judge wrote in his ruling. "If exact spellings were intended by the legislature, even with respect to the most difficult names, the legislature could have and would have said so."
The judge also disagreed with Miller's argument that the illegality of counting misspelled ballots is confirmed by Murkowski's own effort during the campaign to convince voters to spell her name right.
"He seems to suggest that a voter who really wanted to vote for Murkowski would have no excuse for getting the spelling of her name wrong. But of course there are many reasons why this might happen, whether they involve a village elder who had grown up speaking his or her Native dialect, a recently naturalized citizen, a person with any one of a number of disabilities, or someone who just mistakenly left off a letter in his or her chosen candidate's name," the judge wrote.
Elections Director Gail Fenumiai has said her standard for accepting ballots was "if I can pronounce the name by the way it's spelled."
Superior Court Judge William B. Carey just ruled in favor of the state and against Joe Miller in his challenge of the election. Miller has until Tuesday to appeal.
Download the ruling here.
We'll be updating shortly.
Update, 2:20 p.m.:
Lisa Murkowski's legal team filed motions this afternoon asking to be allowed to intervene in the federal lawsuit Miller filed.
She was already given permission to intervene in the state suit.
Murkowski argued in the motion that she should have received more votes than she did, because the state didn't count ballots where voters wrote in her name but failed to fill in the oval.
State Superior Court Judge William Carey is expected to rule this afternoon on Joe Miller’s challenge of the Senate election. The ruling is sure to be appealed to the Alaska Supreme Court.
The timing is key. Federal Judge Ralph Beistline has blocked certification of Lisa Murkowski as the winner in the Senate race until the state courts decide on Miller’s lawsuit. The new U.S. Senate is to be sworn in Jan.5 and the state says Alaska will be left with just one senator, Mark Begich, if the election isn’t certified by then.
The state filed a flurry of motions in Beistline’s federal court arguing that Miller is trying to slow down the process and urging Beistline to speed it up.
“If certification is enjoined beyond the convening of the new Congress in January, the state will suffer significant and immeasurable harm through the loss of full representation in the Senate,” said a motion filed by acting Alaska Attorney General Richard Svobodny.
The state wants Beistline to lift his order blocking certification of the election if Miller loses in state court today and doesn’t file his appeal to the Alaska Supreme Court by the close of business on Monday.
Otherwise, Miller would have 30 days to appeal.
“Mr. Miller’s conduct of the state litigation suggests that he is strongly motivated to delay a final determination of the election result,” Svobodny wrote. “He opposed expedited consideration of the state’s Motion for Summary Judgment, and just yesterday, after full briefing and oral argument on the state’s motion for summary judgment on all counts, moved to amend his complaint to add a new claim and requested discovery to try to give substance to his entirely speculative allegations.”
The state is also asking Beistline to force Miller to argue any remaining federal legal issues at the same time that the Alaska Supreme Court considers the state court lawsuit.
“This is the only way to assure that the issues in this case can be resolved before January 5,” Svobodny wrote.
The only ruling Beistline made so far today is to require Miller to file a motion by Monday morning in response to the state’s request for federal legal issues to be dealt with right away.