Incumbent U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-AK, running as an independent write-in candidate, picked up almost all of the ballots in the first day of counting write-in votes, despite challenges based on the spelling of her name by Republican Tea Party candidate Joe Miller.
On the first day of counting, Murkowski garnered 98% of the write-ins with about 20% of the more than 92,979 write-in votes counted, according to the Alaska Division of Elections. Approximately 89% of her votes were unchallenged, while 8.48% were challenged, but counted anyway. Only 1.44% of the ballots that were challenged by Miller's representatives who were observing the tally were not counted.
In the general election the write-in votes amounted to 40% of the total; Miller had 82,180 votes, or 35%, and the Democratic candidate, Scott McAdams, had 23%.
Miller, who scored an upset win over Murkowski in the Republican primary, has threatened lawsuits because some write-in ballots that misspelled Murkowski's name were counted. However, it would be hard to back up a lawsuit if she wins on a tally of unchallenged votes.
Division of Elections Director Gail Fenumiai was accepting minor misspellings. "If I can pronounce the name by the way it's spelled, that's the standard I'm using," the Anchorage Daily News quoted Fenumiai as saying.
A federal court judge on Wednesday denied Miller's plea for an immediate injunction to stop the counting of the write-in ballots, saying Miller had not demonstrated irreparable harm. The state has been ordered to file a response in the case by next Monday.
The counting was continuing Thursday and could take about five days, according to one estimate.
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