Joe Miller’s Chances

By Miryam Ehrlich Williamson

Joe Miller, the TEA Party’s candidate for senator in Alaska, the man who beat the incumbent Lisa Murkowski in the Republican primary, reminds me of Norm Coleman with hanging chads thrown in. Coleman, at least, came close to winning the Minnesota senate race in 2008. When Al Franken won in a legally-required recount, Coleman sued in every court he could find to hear his case, keeping Franken from taking his rightful seat for more than six months.

Like Coleman, Miller is a man who won’t take No for an answer. TEA Party goers would say that’s true of Murkowski as well, and I won’t dispute them except to point out that Murkowski didn’t go to a court of law to dispute Miller’s win. Instead, she ran in the general election as a write-in candidate.

And it looks like she’s going to win.  And it looks like Miller, who has already tried in court once, may well try again. And, if he follows Coleman’s example, again and again.

On election night an AP tally showed write-ins out-polling Miller by 92,979 to 82,180. Things looked grim for Miller, but all the write-ins had to be read and tallied. Miller went to court to get an order saying Murkowski had to be spelled absolutely correctly for a ballot to be counted. The judge cut the baby in half: Slight misspellings may be counted for Murkowski, but such ballots will be kept aside for further inspection if the write-in win is inconclusive.

Miller has a point. Alaska law seems to require that a ballot may be counted only

if the name, as it appears on the write-in declaration of candidacy, of the candidate or the last name of the candidate is written in the space provided….

But Election Law Blog notes

two previous Alaska cases in which ballots were counted for a candidate when voter intent was clear, even if the ballot wasn’t filled out correctly.

Here’s the cherry on this particular political sundae: Miller is arguing that

When a write-in ballot contains an unrecognized name not reflected on any candidate form, [election officials] will attempt (somewhat mystically) to divine the ‘intent of the voter’ in order to determine the candidate for whom that ballot should be counted.
This is unfair, Miller continues, because people on radio talk shows said they were planning to misspell Murkowski’s name on the write-in line as a form of protest.
So (with a hat tip to Lawrence O’Donnell on MSNBC’s “The Last Word,”) we have the spectacle of Miller saying that election officials can’t figure out the intention of individual voters, but he — Miller — can.
Even more chilling than Miller’s attempt to suppress the votes of people who took the trouble to indicate their intent as clearly as they were able, is his complaint’s reference to Bush v Gore. If things don’t go his way, will his refusal to take No for an answer go all the way to the Supreme Court?
Does the TEA Party have that much money?  They do if the Koch brothers want them to.
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2 Responses to “Joe Miller’s Chances”

  1. One of the things that’s tickling us up here in Alaska is that he ran to the federal court.  During the primaries he argued that if something wasn’t in the Constitution (say, Social Security) it was unconstitutional and needed to be eliminated.  Once the general election rolled around, however, he started arguing that the things that he’d said he wanted to eliminate actually *were* within the proper scope of government, but only state government.  He also wanted to take back federal land in Alaska and revert it to the state (although that’s in violation of Alaska’s state constitution – part of the deal that got us statehood in the first place).  But when he wanted to stop the vote count he went to the Feds, which tends to underscore that he’s a situational kind of guy.

  2. Thanks for this delicious observation, Melinda.  “Situational kind of guy” is the absolutely nicest way I can think of saying it. I wonder what other tidbits you could give us about Alaska’s role  national politics.

    I wonder, instance, is Murkowski as popular as the writein vote would make it seem, or is it Miller’s unpopularity? What she’s achieving is pretty astounding.

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