However, Miller Decides to Move Federal Case Forward
December 27, 2010
The Alaska Supreme Court issued a ruling last Wednesday denying both Joe Miller's appeal and Lisa Murkowski's cross-appeal, affirming various decisions of the Division of Elections that the candidates had challenged. The Alaska Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the decision of Superior Court Judge William Carey of Ketchikan, rejecting the election lawsuit of candidate Joe Miller on every count. The ruling confirms that “voter intent” is paramount in the write-in ballot process, and confirming the Alaska Division of Elections determination that Senator Lisa Murkowski won the election by more than 10,000 votes. In its conclusion, the Supreme Court said "There are no remaining issues raised by Miller that prevent this election from being certified.”
Alaska Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell welcomed the Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling on all counts supporting actions by the Division of Elections in Alaska’s U.S. Senate race.
Treadwell said Wednesday, “We are pleased with the unanimous decision of the Supreme Court.” The Lieutenant Governor said, “We will now return to federal court and seek to have the injunction lifted so that the U.S. Senate election can be certified.”
Miller said of Wednesday's ruling, "We disagree with the court's intrepretation of the election code, but respect both the rule of law and the court's place in the judicial system," Miller said. "We are studying the opinion and carefully considering our options."
The U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska also issued an order Wednesday, inviting Miller to submit a brief regarding his federal claims by today, December 27, and directed the State to file a response by Wednesday.
With the state issues now settled, the case returns to Federal Judge Ralph Beistline who indicated last week that with a decision by the state, the election should be certified even if Miller pursues continuing litigation in the federal courts. Beistline had stayed certification of the election pending resolution of Miller’s claims in state court. The timeline laid out by Judge Beistline gave Miller 48 hours to submit any remaining federal claims, which means certification of the election can take place in time for Senator Murkowski to be seated in the next Congress. Beistline recognized that Alaska should have its elected Senator confirmed before Jan. 5, the date when newly elected members of Congress are sworn in.
Murkowski campaign manager Kevin Sweeney said of last Wednesday's ruling, "We anticipated today’s decision by the Supreme Court, but are elated nonetheless.” He said, “We expect that Judge Beistline will lift his stay of certification [this] week and the state can move forward in certifying the election for Senator Murkowski. We also anticipate that Joe will continue to pursue his baseless claims in federal court until his money runs out. In the meantime, Senator Murkowski remains on the job in Washington DC, putting Alaskans above party as promised, and as indicated by her most recent votes this past week.”
Miller said yesterday, “After careful consideration and seeking the counsel of people whose opinion I respect and trust, I have decided that the federal case must go forward. The integrity of the election is vital and ultimately the rule of law must be our standard. Nevertheless, I have also decided to withdraw our opposition to the certification of the election, ensuring that Alaska will have its full delegation seated when the 112th Congress convenes next month.” Miller added, “This decision will allow Alaskans to focus on bringing fairness and transparency to our elections process without distraction of the certification issue.”
In its court filings, the Miller legal team pointed out several issues that require further review including: whether the U.S. Constitution’s Election Clause was violated by ignoring the legislature’s mandatory provisions for write-in candidates; whether the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause was violated by the different vote counting standards that were applied, dependent on the candidate in question; and other issues such as at least hundreds of felons voting and at least hundreds of ballots being filled out by a handful of people.
Miller stated, “We want the end result of this legal action to be for the people of Alaska to not only have full faith in the outcome of this race, but a confidence in the manner in which elections will be conducted in our state in the future. Election integrity is vital.”
Assuming the case prevails in federal court, Lieutenant Governor Treadwell plans to meet with Governor Sean Parnell before the New Year to sign the paperwork necessary to reseat Senator Lisa Murkowski. That paperwork must be filed in Washington, D.C., by January 3.
Treadwell said the Supreme Court began its ruling with “the bedrock principle that … one of the fundamental prerogatives of citizenship” is “the right of citizens is to cast their ballots and thus participate in the selection of those who control their government.” The ruling cites the Supreme Court’s past case law and Alaska’s statutory regulation in its decision determining that “the voter’s intention is paramount.”
The court found consistency in the way Division of Elections Director Gail Fenumiai carried out her responsibility said Treadwell. Her procedures were consistent with those applied to military absentee voters, and were equally applied to all candidates. The court ruling states, “[T]he Division’s methodology gave all of the ballots – as well as all of the candidates – equal treatment.”
“We commend Director Fenumiai, Solicitor General Joanne Grace and her hard-working team at the Department of Law, and former Lieutenant Governor Craig Campbell for their meticulous execution of the law over these past two months,” Lt. Governor Treadwell said.
Treadwell said the Supreme Court has noted that a contest of the election would not bar certification, and that “there are no remaining issues raised by [Joe] Miller that would prevent this election from being certified.
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