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Court Allows Murkowski to Defend "Victory"

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, R- Alaska climbs to the stage in preparation to announce her write-in campaign Friday, Sept. 17, 2010 in Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/Michael Dinneen)
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A state court judge on Thursday agreed to let Sen. Lisa Murkowski have a say in a legal challenge to Alaska's U.S. Senate race.

Attorneys for Murkowski argued that she should be allowed to intervene in the lawsuit that her Republican rival, Joe Miller, brought against the state over the manner in which it conducted the election.

Miller contends the state did not follow the law, notably in its decision to use discretion in tallying write-in votes for Murkowski.

Attorney Scott Kendall said in court Wednesday that Murkowski should be entitled to protect her "victory" and have a say in the proceedings. Judge William Carey agreed to let her into the case.

Unofficial results from the Nov. 2 election showed Murkowski with a lead, and she has declared victory. Her attorneys maintained her interests wouldn't be adequately represented by the state in the case, as Miller's attorneys argued they would be.

Murkowski Declares Victory with Write-In

Murkowski ran as a write-in candidate after losing her primary to Miller. Results showed Murkowski with 101,088 votes, compared to Miller's 90,760. Excluding ballots challenged by Miller observers over a week of hand-counting ballots, she held a 2,169-vote lead.

Murkowski on Write-In: Courage or Crazy?

Kendall said Murkowski was at odds with the state over its deciding not to count another 2,016 ballots for her.

Many of those did not have the ballot ovals filled but had her name written in. Others, according to attorney Scott Kendall, had "Lisa M." written in or various misspellings.

He said those ballots represent a significant chunk of the more than 258,000 total ballots cast.

The judge's decision means Murkowski would be able to fight to have those ballots included, if things got to that point.

Also Thursday, the Alaska Federation of Natives sought a voice in the case, either as an intervener or in support of the state. A similar effort was denied in an earlier federal court case.

The state's largest Alaska Native group, which endorsed Murkowski, claims Alaska Natives would be disenfranchised if their ballots for Murkowski were tossed because they didn't have perfect spelling.