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Alaska Still Counting Votes in Senate Race

November 4, 2010 at 5:39 PM EDT
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The votes for Republican incumbent Lisa Murkowski, a write-in candidate, and Tea Party favorite Joe Miller are still being counted in Alaska. Judy Woodruff talks to Michael Carey, host of KSKA's "Anchorage Edition," about the undecided Senate contest.

JUDY WOODRUFF: For the very latest on that Alaska race, we turn to Michael Carey. He’s host of the weekly program “Anchorage Edition” on KSKA Public Radio, and he’s a columnist for The Anchorage Daily News.

Michael Carey, good to have you back with us again. Tell me, first…

MICHAEL CAREY, KSKA Public Radio: Great to be here.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Tell me, first of all, whether it is the case now that the write-in ballots clearly are ahead there.

MICHAEL CAREY: Yes, write-in got the most votes, 14,000 more than Joe Miller did, and many, many more than Scott McAdams, the Democrat. Yes, write-ins is in first place.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And so the process of counting still is going to be slow. They don’t even begin to look at these write-ins until next week?

MICHAEL CAREY: Yes. Let me explain some of the process. First of all, traditionally, when we established our election laws, they allowed for a longer period of time for the ballots to come in, especially from rural Alaska, because, at one time, those communities didn’t have phone — phones — and all the ballots would come into central counting by mail.

Second, we centralize our election in the state of Alaska. Counties do not do the counting. It’s the state of Alaska in various places around the state. And, third, our laws are such that we proceed by statute. And the election laws provide that any write-in ballots will be counted after all other ballots, because they will only count the write-in ballots if write-ins, whoever the write-ins are, could win the election.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And there’s no doubt about that? I mean, there’s no — well, let me ask you, how much doubt is there that write-in could ultimately be the — emerge the winner?

MICHAEL CAREY: Write-in, also known as Lisa Murkowski, probably is going to win.


MICHAEL CAREY: It would be very difficult for Joe Miller to pick up in the absentee ballots and in the ballots that are challenged — in other words, ballots that had some reason that they’re being held back to be examined — with what’s out.

And also, the — Miller would have to have something like 10 or 12 percent — more than 10 percent or 12 percent of the write-in ballots declared invalid. It’s very, very unlikely.

Now, Miller has said, I’m told — I did not hear this — that there may be write-in ballots for him as well. And that has happened in other elections, where people will put in a write-in for their candidate, even though their name is on the ballot, just so they know it’s there.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What else is his campaign and what else is Lisa Murkowski’s campaign saying about all this?

MICHAEL CAREY: Well, Lisa Murkowski has expressed confidence, but — and, if you look at the front page of The Anchorage Daily News and all the Alaskan media, you see a smiling Lisa Murkowski.

Her smile is accompanied by hiring a lawyer, skilled lawyers who will oversee the count of the write-in ballots.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Michael Carey, is there any question about whose side she’s on? I mean, she didn’t win the Republican primary, but she’s said she will caucus with the Republicans?

MICHAEL CAREY: Yes. She really ran as something of an independent, saying that: You know, I have learned my lesson here. I’m going back to Washington, in some ways, as, I think, a new person.

But she has also made it clear that she’s a Republican. And she tends to caucus with the Republicans. And I think people can expect her to be a good Republican, although she solicited Democratic votes vigorously, especially the votes of Democratic women. She went after them very, very strong, and demonized Joe Miller. You could see that in the advertising.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Very quickly, I have to ask you, what is Sarah Palin saying in all this? She did endorse Joe Miller.

MICHAEL CAREY: I haven’t heard from her in the last couple of days. I think people like Sarah Palin get involved when victory is at hand and make themselves scarce when things aren’t going so well.


And they aren’t going so well right now for Joe Miller.

JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, we are going to leave it with that. Michael Carey, joining us from Anchorage, thank you.