Judge sets expedited schedule for Senate vote-count lawsuit

NEXT WEEK: Arguments are set for Wednesday in Miller's challenge.

December 1, 2010 

JUNEAU-- A judge on Wednesday set an expedited schedule for arguments in the legal challenge to Alaska's U.S. Senate race, saying it was important to resolve the case at the state court level as soon as possible.

Judge William Carey, in setting arguments for next Wednesday, also urged attorneys to file any legal actions they felt necessary -- such as discovery requests -- as quickly as they could.

Republican Joe Miller has questioned the legitimacy of election returns showing that Sen. Lisa Murkowski won. He contends the system used by the state in tallying write-in votes for Murkowski wasn't in line with the law, that the rules for conducting the election were changed in midstream and favored her.

He also has raised concerns about irregularities, saying voters in some precincts apparently were allowed to cast unquestioned ballots in spite of not presenting proper identification or being known by poll workers, and that some ballots had similar handwriting.

Miller attorney Michael Morley argued against the expedited schedule, saying it afforded no real opportunity for his team to look through a potentially large volume of materials it was seeking from the state to investigate those concerns.

The state has defended the integrity of its process. Similar-looking writing could be due to voters requesting and receiving assistance to cast ballots.

Murkowski, who ran a write-in campaign after losing the primary to Miller, has sought to intervene in the case. Carey said he would rule on that request by this morning.

Attorneys for the state and Murkowski have said it's crucial for the case to be fully resolved within the next month to ensure Alaska's representation in the Senate doesn't suffer.

Full resolution would include any appeals to the state Supreme Court and parties returning to the federal court that issued an injunction on certification of the race. The state wants the judge to rule by Dec. 9.

In court documents, attorneys had cited Jan. 3 as the date for the swearing-in of a senator, but a Murkowski attorney said Wednesday that the date is Jan. 5.

Murkowski spokesman Michael Brumas said the senator, who has claimed victory, believes "the Alaska courts will move expeditiously and that this issue will be resolved well before" that date.

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