CBSN

Joe Miller Won't Block Murkowski Certification

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R) Alaska and Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Joe Miller.
AP Photo
Updated 4 p.m. ET

JUNEAU, Alaska - Republican Joe Miller has formally declared that he no longer opposes state officials certifying Alaska's U.S. Senate election.

In papers filed in federal court Monday, Miller says he doesn't object to state certification of the November election results, which show his rival, fellow Republican Lisa Murkowski, winning.

But Miller isn't entirely giving up. His attorneys asked U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline to keep alive his options - including a possible recount or election contest - once "all appeals have been exhausted." Miller reiterated his claims the state erred in how it counted write-in ballots.

Beistline barred the state from certifying the race until issues raised by Miller were addressed. Last week the state Supreme Court refused to overturn results favoring Murkowski and said it found "no remaining issues" that precluded certification.

Miller announced late Sunday that he would take this step, paving the way for Murkowski - a write-in candidate after losing the Republican nomination to Miller - to eventually be declared winner of the race.

Election officials determined Murkowski had the most votes in the November election but were barred from certifying a victory by a federal judge, who issued a stay to give the courts time to rule on Miller's claims the vote count was mishandled.

Miller said he wants to ensure Alaska has full representation when senators are sworn in for the new term of Congress on Jan. 5.

"This decision will allow Alaskans to focus on bringing fairness and transparency to our elections process without distraction of the certification issue," he said in a statement.

Beistline, who is hearing Miller's federal court challenge, must still decide whether to lift his stay before the state can move ahead with certification. There was no immediate word on when that might occur.

But Beistline had already indicated he was likely to lift the stay, saying Alaska should have a senator in place when Congress' new term begins, even if that means later having to replace that person when all legal disputes are eventually resolved.

Murkowski mounted a write-in campaign after losing the GOP primary to Miller.

There was no immediate comment from Murkowski or state election officials early Monday.

Unofficial results showed Murkowski leading Miller by 10,328 votes, or 2,169 if ballots challenged by Miller observers during a tedious, weeklong hand count were excluded.

She has declared victory, and called on Miller to concede, saying no one but the lawyers benefit from a drawn out legal battle.

Back and fourth court challenges followed. On Wednesday, the Alaska Supreme Court refused to overturn election results favoring Murkowski.

In an at-times strongly worded 4-0 opinion, the high court said it found "no remaining issues raised by Miller that prevent this election from being certified."

After the ruling, the state said it intended to ask Beistline to lift the stay. Beistline gave Miller a Monday morning deadline to decide whether to pursue remaining issues further, in federal court.

Miller said late Sunday that after "careful consideration and seeking the counsel of people whose opinion I respect and trust," he decided not to fight certification but to press on with his case.

"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," he said. "Election integrity is vital."

Miller contends the state violated the election and equal protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution in its handling of the vote count.

The law calls for write-in ballots to have the ovals filled and the candidate's last name or name as it appears on the declaration of candidacy written in. Miller believes the state should be held to a strict reading of that law, and his attorneys argued that spelling mattered.

The state, pointing to case law, used discretion in determining voter intent and allowed for ballots with misspellings to be counted toward Murkowski's tally.

Attorneys for the state argued that Miller's interpretation would disenfranchise voters. The state Supreme Court agreed and called voter intent "paramount."