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Write-In Ballot Count Begins In Alaska Senate Race

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Write-In Ballot Count Begins In Alaska Senate Race

Write-In Ballot Count Begins In Alaska Senate Race

Write-In Ballot Count Begins In Alaska Senate Race

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/131223290/131223433" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Alaska officials began counting the write-in votes Wednesday in the undecided Senate race. After incumbent Lisa Murkowski lost in the GOP primary, she ran as a write-in candidate, along with more than 100 other Alaskans. While Sarah Palin and other conservatives, including Jim DeMint, are backing Republican nominee Joe Miller, more votes were cast for write-in candidates than for Miller or the Democrat on Election Day. NPR's Martin Kaste updates host Melissa Block on the story.

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

NPR's Martin Kaste has been watching the count, which is taking place in an old printing plant on the outskirts of Juneau. And Martin, tell us what's happened so far today.

MARTIN KASTE: Joe Miller's campaign's observers are challenging ballots based on misspellings, on cursive, on legibility, pretty much anything, really. And they challenge those ballots, and those get aside for further review by the director of elections here.

BLOCK: Well, further review, that's the real question, isn't it? Because there's been a big question of whether people would have to spell Murkowski letter for letter. What would be acceptable to determine voters' intent on that?

KASTE: So it's really a question of, is voter intent more important or is letter of the law more important? And the Miller campaign, they say it should be letter of the name, letter of the law.

BLOCK: What's the mood like in that room, Martin? Is it contentious? Does it feel really tense?

KASTE: It's not really tense. These are Alaskans. They have to get along. It's a small place when you look at the population. And, you know, one Miller volunteer told me, hey, you know, it's business. We all understand that. I don't think there's a lot of bad blood here. But it's very well organized. And it, so far, seems very cordial.

BLOCK: And some heavy election lawyers being brought in, though, for Lisa Murkowski?

KASTE: There are. In fact, Ben Ginsberg, the lawyer for Bush-Cheney in 2000 in Florida, has been circulating among the tables here. He works for the Murkowski campaign, and he's actually been quite complimentary of how well organized things are.

BLOCK: Well, 90,000 write-in ballots to go through, right? How long do you think that'll take?

KASTE: They're talking about this going through the end of the week, into the weekend possibly. But if the gap right now between write-in and Miller stays pretty wide, if Murkowski basically claims more than, say, 90-something percent of these write-in ballots, then I think we'd have a pretty clear outcome by the weekend.

BLOCK: And if not, then it gets into the whole question of those ballots where the intent is not so clear?

KASTE: Exactly. I think, really, the main issue right now is, does the federal court intervene here and require perfect spelling? If it does, things could get complicated. But as things stand right now, if the state's criteria are allowed to stand, I think the clarity will be coming pretty soon here.

BLOCK: Martin, thanks so much.

KASTE: You're welcome.

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