State disputes Miller claim that felons illegally voted

December 9, 2010 

JUNEAU -- The state's election director on Thursday disputed Republican Joe Miller's allegations that perhaps hundreds of felons were wrongfully allowed to vote in last month's U.S. Senate race. Gail Fenumiai said the state Division of Elections compares its voter rolls weekly with data from the Department of Corrections and removes those who have lost their right to vote. Asked if she had any concerns that felons were wrongfully allowed to vote, she answered emphatically: "Absolutely not."

Miller, who is challenging how the state conducted the election, alleged this week that hundreds of convicted felons in Alaska's sex offender database cast ballots. Miller's campaign compared sex offender data to voter rolls.

It's not clear how many of those offenders had their right to vote reinstated; Fenumiai said a person convicted of a felony involving moral turpitude who has been unconditionally discharged from jail, probation or parole has the right to register or re-register to vote. That person's name, however, could still appear on the sex offender registry.

The campaign concedes that but wants a judge to grant the opportunity to investigate the matter further.

Miller told reporters Wednesday that this is "just the tip of the iceberg."

"Clearly, this is a smaller part of probably a larger population of felons that did, in fact, vote," he said.

A state court judge is expected to decide by Friday whether to invalidate the results of the election, as Miller wants, or dismiss Miller's challenge, as the state wants.

Miller believes the state should have strictly followed the law in counting write-in ballots for his rival, Sen. Lisa Murkowski. As his side sees it, that means no misspellings of her name should have been counted toward her tally. He wants a standard of review for all ballots and a possible recount. The state, relying on case law, used discretion in determining voter intent and allowed for misspellings.

Murkowski mounted a write-in campaign -- the likes of which had never been seen in Alaska -- after losing her primary to Miller. Unofficial results showed Murkowski ahead by 10,328 votes, and she has declared victory.

Even if all ballots challenged by Miller observers were disqualified, she would have a lead of 2,169 votes, but a federal judge has delayed certification of the election until the issues raised by Miller have been resolved.

Miller also has raised questions about voting irregularities. His claims include similar-looking signatures on ballots -- which could be due to voters asking for and receiving legally acceptable help in filling out ballots -- and precincts in which he alleges some voters were allowed to cast unquestioned ballots without providing identification.

Fenumiai said there's "no proof" showing that polls workers did not ask for and receive identification, or know the voters personally. She said the workers are trained to get identification from people they do not know, and a failure to mark a box in the precinct register related to voter ID was likely an oversight.

"It does get busy in a precinct," she said.

Miller spokesman Randy DeSoto said that doesn't explain why boxes would be consistently checked and then there would be spots with several missing. He said that seems strange, particularly if election workers had gotten in the routine of marking those off. "It's an area of concern," he said.

The state maintains Miller has not met the burden for showing there was any voting fraud or corruption. Miller's attorney counters that enough questions have been raised that simply can't be swept aside.

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