Write-In Count Puts Murkowski Ahead in Alaska U.S. Senate Race

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska took the lead over Tea Party-backed rival Joe Miller during a count of write-in votes in the still-undecided race for her seat.

State election officials reported yesterday that Murkowski, a Republican, had 92,715 undisputed write-in votes from the Nov. 2 election plus another 8,153 that were counted in her favor over Miller’s challenges, for a total of 100,868 votes. Miller, a businessman who defeated her for the Republican nomination in August, had 90,468 votes, including 20 write-in ballots.

Murkowski, 53, is trying to become the second person elected to the Senate by write-in vote and the first since Strom Thurmond won a South Carolina election through that method in 1954.

Gail Fenumiai, director of the state Division of Elections, said in an e-mail that a "very small number" of special or overseas ballots remain to be counted.

Miller, 43, is backed by former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. His representatives challenged a number of the write-in ballots for Murkowski as being misspelled or otherwise improperly cast, and he has filed a lawsuit over standards used by state election officials for deciding whether those votes are valid.

Murkowski’s father Frank Murkowski, 77, left the Senate when he won the governor’s office in 2002 and named his daughter to replace him. Lisa Murkowski won a full term in 2004.

Murkowski resigned as vice chairwoman of the Senate Republican Conference after losing her race for renomination.

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