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Miller won't block Murkowski Senate certification

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - Republican Joe Miller said he won't stand
in the way of incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski being certified the
winner of Alaska's U.S. Senate race, but he vowed to continue his
legal fight over the state's handling of the vote count.
Miller's announcement late Sunday paves the way for Murkowski -
a write-in candidate after losing the Republican nomination to
Miller - to eventually be declared winner of the race.
Election officials determined Murkowski had the most votes in
the November election but were barred from certifying a victory by
a federal judge, who issued a stay to give the courts time to rule
on Miller's claims the vote count was mishandled.
Sunday's decision means Miller won't file any motions to stop
the court from lifting the stay.
Miller said he wants to ensure Alaska has full representation
when senators are sworn in for the new term of Congress on Jan. 5.
"This decision will allow Alaskans to focus on bringing
fairness and transparency to our elections process without
distraction of the certification issue," he said in a statement.
U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline, who is hearing Miller's
federal court challenge, must still decide whether to lift his stay
before the state can move ahead with certification. There was no
immediate word on when that might occur.
But Beistline had already indicated he was likely to lift the
stay, saying Alaska should have a senator in place when Congress'
new term begins, even if that means later having to replace that
person when all legal disputes are eventually resolved.
Murkowski mounted a write-in campaign after losing the GOP
primary to Miller.
There was no immediate comment from Murkowski or state election
officials early Monday.
Unofficial results showed Murkowski leading Miller by 10,328
votes, or 2,169 if ballots challenged by Miller observers during a
tedious, weeklong hand count were excluded.
She has declared victory, and called on Miller to concede,
saying no one but the lawyers benefit from a drawn out legal
battle.
Back and fourth court challenges followed. On Wednesday, the
Alaska Supreme Court refused to overturn election results favoring
Murkowski.
In an at-times strongly worded 4-0 opinion, the high court said
it found "no remaining issues raised by Miller that prevent this
election from being certified."
After the ruling, the state said it intended to ask Beistline to
lift the stay. Beistline gave Miller a Monday morning deadline to
decide whether to pursue remaining issues further, in federal
court.
Miller said late Sunday that after "careful consideration and
seeking the counsel of people whose opinion I respect and trust,"
he decided not to fight certification but to press on with his
case.
"We want the end result of this legal action to be for the
people of Alaska to not only have full faith in the outcome of this
race but a confidence in the manner in which elections will be
conducted in our state in the future," he said. "Election
integrity is vital."
Miller contends the state violated the election and equal
protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution in its handling of the
vote count.
The law calls for write-in ballots to have the ovals filled and
the candidate's last name or name as it appears on the declaration
of candidacy written in. Miller believes the state should be held
to a strict reading of that law, and his attorneys argued that
spelling mattered.
The state, pointing to case law, used discretion in determining
voter intent and allowed for ballots with misspellings to be
counted toward Murkowski's tally.
Attorneys for the state argued that Miller's interpretation
would disenfranchise voters. The state Supreme Court agreed and
called voter intent "paramount."

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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