November 11th, 2010
04:49 PM ET
12 years ago

When "M-u-r-k-o-w-s-k-i" spells a vote for Murkowski

Juneau, Alaska (CNN) - When does "M-u-r-k-o-w-s-k-i" spell "M-u-r-k-o-w-s-k-i"?

It depends on who's deciding.

The nation's last Senate race is beginning to look a lot like high stakes hair-splitting.

At issue: not just the spelling of Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski's name on the over 92,000 write-in ballots but, in some cases, how it was written.

And this is sparking fresh debate between observers from her campaign, and others representing Republican opponent Joe Miller, who are watching as officials with the Alaska Division of Elections count the write-in ballots.

Case in point: CNN observed some votes for "Lisa Murkowski." That is the exact spelling of the incumbent Alaska senator's name.

And yet some observers for Miller have questioned: did the person who wrote in "Lisa Murkowski" really mean "Lisa Murkowski?"

Some reasons cited to question the ballot: the handwriting, while correctly spelled, was somewhat hard to read, contained smudges or some other imperfection.

Miller campaign spokesman Randy DeSoto was asked about challenges to those ballots.

"As of yesterday, 89-percent were going unchallenged," DeSoto said. "I think they're saying, if there's a letter, anything that seems different that's not clear…let's just move them to the side and look at them again. That's the intent."

CNN pressed DeSoto on the Miller campaign's confidence that none of the challenges are frivolous.

That's "certainly not our intent to create any frivolous" challenges, DeSoto said.

In one hypothetical vote-counting scenario, if Murkowski continues to see 89 percent of the write-ins as clear votes for her, and even if all of the challenged ballots are thrown out, Murkowski could win the race.

CNN also observed write-in ballots cast for "Lisa Murkoski," "L. Murkosski," "Lisa Macoski," to name a few.

Did voters who cast these ballots intend to vote for the incumbent Alaska senator?

In some cases, the official in charge of deciding – Division of Elections Director Gail Fenumiai – has said, yes. In rare cases, she has said no.

But it's that determination of a "voter's intent" that has infuriated Miller's campaign and served as basis of its lawsuit.

Murkowski Campaign Manager Kevin Sweeney defended the practice to CNN.

"I think the Division of Elections is doing the right thing, right now, in looking at the intent of the voter and counting the ballots that they believe are cast for Lisa Murkowski," Sweeney said. "I think that every Alaskan who took the time to go to the poll to write out a name, their vote should be counted."

Sweeney continued: "We're seeing that a lot of the challenged ballots right now are perfectly spelled. They've sort of changed the threshold for which they challenge a ballot. Yesterday they, at one point, were challenging…"Murkowski, Lisa" – which were perfectly spelled."

Filed under: Alaska • Joe Miller • Lisa Murkowski
soundoff (45 Responses)
  1. Rob

    Why does Joe Miller get top billing on the ballot? That's not alphabetical, and he's not an incumbent. Seems suggestive to put his name above all the others.

    November 11, 2010 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  2. carlos

    if it says MURKY, it is 100% for Sen. Murkowski, anyone with intelligence exceeding that of the other candidate would AGREE, period!!!!!!!

    November 11, 2010 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  3. T'sah from Virginia

    They should have PULLED a Sarah Palin in her OWN STATE – write L I S A M U R K O W S K I on their Hand!!!!

    Lisa will WIN!!!

    November 11, 2010 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  4. prince

    palin call miller and your tea party without sugar to accept defeat

    November 11, 2010 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  5. ME

    This sure feels like politics as usual. I thought the Tea Party was supposed to be different.

    I'm not sure this is a party I will want to support in the future. Sarah...please step in and ask Mr. Miller to do the right thing here and not question votes that are obviously intended for Ms. Murkowski (if I spelt it wrong...I meant the person who is running). This is how you can demonstrate you really get what we are all about.

    November 11, 2010 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  6. tony

    How do you spell TEA PARTY correctly. Why S–L-E-A-Z-E of course. The intent is clear.
    . . . .. Throw the Palin and Miller Bums OUT.

    November 11, 2010 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  7. Darth Vadik, CA


    best comment I have heard in a long time, kudos to you

    November 11, 2010 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  8. literate

    "Lisa Murkoski," "L. Murkosski," "Lisa Macoski,"

    All of these have an L and an M. The voters may have intended MiLLer.

    November 11, 2010 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  9. tel

    Joe Miller is a slime ball, just as he's against unemployment ins. unless it is for his family-rather slimey-DAH!!!!!!!!! As Shanon Anglepants would say–"MAN-UP JOE.'

    November 11, 2010 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  10. shannon

    Wow, is this guy a sore loser, I wonder if $iilly $arah will tell him to man up.

    November 11, 2010 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  11. shannon

    AK resident, we have a right to worry about it, did you know that when someone wins a Senate seat, their vote in the Senate effects all of America, not just Alaska. If Alaskans are so big on common sense why would they vote for Miller in the first place, or give us the quitter from Wasilla! Try Again!

    November 11, 2010 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  12. JakeD

    The misspelling IS a big deal because there were at least some voters who said before the election they were going to PROTEST her write-in campaign by deliberately misspelling her name. Why should those votes be counted FOR her?

    November 11, 2010 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  13. JakeD

    In addition, the Miller campaign is complaining that election officials violated the law that prohibits them from providing any information (including spelling) at polling places.

    November 11, 2010 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  14. Jim

    I too have a Polish-American name ending in "owski." I am used to having my name misspelled (such as ending in a "y" instead of an "i"). Democracy means letting the voter express his/her intent, even if the voter is illiterate. If someone spells Ms. Murkowski's name reasonably close, that vote should count. Joe Millier and his supporters should be ashamed of themselves for their mean-spirited objections to votes.

    November 11, 2010 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  15. PHVogel

    If you don't believe that intent can be determined then you have to throw out an entire body of law. For instance, you would not be able to charge someone with "attempted murder" because it assumes that you can determine that the criminal intended to kill the victim (and not just to cause bodily harm–or no crime at all if the shot missed the potential victim). To convict someone of libel or slander you have to prove "malicious intent." I could go on... We can put it another way: If a majority of voters write "Lisa Murkowsky" does that mean that those voters should not get the representative they wanted?

    November 11, 2010 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  16. Jon in Madison

    The law states that mis-spelled names do not count. That being said, the can not legally be counted. Murkowski passed out arm bands that had her name spelled correctly. If they supported her, and their intent was to get her elected, they should have worn one of the bands.

    November 11, 2010 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  17. Indy

    The will of the people of Alaska have spoken loud and clear !!! They don't want anything to do with Sarah Palin or Joe Miller. They are a very proud and intellegent state. Ever since they booted Palin from the Governors chair they have become stronger and more unified then ever. If you are issued a speeding ticket and the trooper spells your name wrong, ya still got to pay the ticket, if your name is mispelled on a court document you still have to adhere to the document if it is clear the intent was to spell your name. Way to go Alaska !!!! You should be very proud

    November 11, 2010 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  18. Linda Iowa

    Tea Party antics at its best. What an insult to the intelligence of the Alaskan people.

    November 11, 2010 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  19. Modi

    This is the Tea Party's idea of democracy. Forget accountability and honesty; they'll fight tooth and nail to get into power, nitpicking and pulling every technicality they can to get votes for an opponent thrown out. It doesn't really matter what the voters want, the Tea Party wants to impose their policies on the majority that disagrees with them.

    November 11, 2010 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  20. Curtis Means

    I will be heading to Alaska tomorrow to claim my victory in that senate election race because clearly when the voters there wrote any of the variance on Lisa Murkowski's name they were casting a vote for me...Curtis... this should be obvious to any one.

    November 11, 2010 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
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