Miller challenged Murkowski write-ins in wrong court, Alaska says

The Anchorage Daily NewsNovember 12, 2010 

The state says that Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller has no business going into federal court now to challenge the counting of write-in ballots for his opponent and urged a federal judge to dismiss the case he filed this week.

State courts are the proper forum to interpret Alaska election law and the actions of state officials, Assistant Attorney General Margaret Paton Walsh said in her motion to dismiss. Until the Alaska Supreme Court has spoken, Miller has no legal basis to make a federal case out of the issue, she said.

"The plaintiff (Miller) in this case has attempted to dress his state-law claims in federal-question clothing, in order to go forum shopping," Paton Walsh wrote. "The Alaska Court System is the proper forum for this case. The Alaska Supreme Court is very familiar with the state's election laws -- issuing an election law decision as recently as two weeks ago -- and is the appropriate court to interpret Alaska's election statutes."

As a candidate, one of Miller's central messages was that the federal government has overreached into areas that should be run by the states, whether that was Social Security, health care, education or resource protection. Now the state says it is Miller who is overreaching by asking a federal court to interfere in what should be an Alaska affair.

Miller has said that election officials supervised by Lt. Gov. Craig Campbell are improperly interpreting a state law that says that write-in votes can count only when the full name or at least the last name is spelled exactly as it appears in the candidate's write-in declaration. This week, his observers in Juneau have even been challenging write-in votes with ambiguous penmanship -- in particular, letters that bump up against each other and raise the question of whether an "ow" combination is actually an "au," for example.

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