Miller says he'd support changes in Alaska election law

BUT ...: State should not be able to decide which votes count.

January 15, 2011 

JUNEAU -- Joe Miller said he would support a voter intent standard in Alaska election law so long as the state no longer has discretion to determine which votes should count.

Anything short of that "places the integrity of the election in peril," he said.

Miller's comments to The Associated Press came after a weeks-long legal battle over the U.S. Senate seat. Miller argued that the state's handling of the election unfairly favored his rival, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who ran as a write-in candidate after losing the GOP primary to him. Three courts ruled against Miller, and, faced with the prospect of taking his case to the federal appeals court in San Francisco, he gave up on Dec. 31. He had once said he'd go to the U.S. Supreme Court, if necessary.

Miller expressed no regrets in taking the issue as far as he had, in spite of calls from within his own party for him to give up, saying his lawsuit shed light on a flawed system and hopefully will lead to reforms. He vowed to remain a voice for the tea party crowd, "absolutely committed to traveling throughout our state or the Lower 48 to help promote the ideals of limited, constitutional government," and to stay engaged through public speaking, writing and "other political activism."

"Keeping the public informed and engaged is our best means to affecting policy in Washington, D.C.," he said in an e-mail interview.

He also made clear that the race left a bad taste in his mouth, blasting the role of outside money, Murkowski's taking the "low road of engaging in personal attacks regarding my character, while offering no positive agenda to address our nation's problems," and the unshakable sense that she did not win fair and square.

"I don't believe congratulations are in order, given the conduct of the general election," he said.

His complaints are similar to those made by Murkowski after her loss to Miller in the primary.

Murkowski's campaign manager, Kevin Sweeney, declined comment except to confirm that Miller and Murkowski had not spoken.

Official results showed Murkowski winning by more than 10,000 votes. She was sworn in for her second full term this month, becoming the first U.S. Senate candidate since 1954 to win with a write-in campaign.

The director of the state Division of Elections, in consultation with state attorneys, used discretion in counting write-in votes for Murkowski and allowed ballots with misspellings to be counted for her. Miller argued that was not in line with a strict reading of election law that calls for the candidate's last name or name as it appears on the declaration of candidacy to be written.

Three courts, including the Alaska Supreme Court, ruled against Miller, though a federal judge called the law poorly written. Several state lawmakers have expressed interest in clarifying the law, giving weight to voter intent.

Miller said he'd support that "as long as there are clear delineations of what is required to meet that intent threshold."

"The Division opens itself up to charges of bias and the people lose confidence in the system, especially if their candidate is on the short end of the Division's implementation of a loose standard," he said.

He supports other measures too, including increased ballot security, barring the state from changing the rules for running an election after a race has started and tightening the means of voter identification.

Miller did not rule out another run for office but said his family would be a critical factor in whether he would do so. He has talked about the toll the "vitriolic" campaign took on his family, especially his wife, whom he praised for standing with him and said he loved "more than life itself."

"My role is really only to do what I believe is the right thing to do, and trust God for the results," he said.

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