There could be plenty of nail-biters as election results are tallied Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, but one race in particular might leave everyone hanging -- for weeks.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski's write-in campaign against Joe Miller -- who defeated her in Alaska's GOP Senate primary -- and Democrat Scott McAdams is what threatens to gum up the works. The New York Times
reports that the election could be decided quickly if either Miller or McAdams is clearly ahead after ballots are counted on election night. In either of those cases, a protracted inspection of the write-in votes would be unnecessary.
But that's a big if, and the mechanics of casting (and counting) a write-in vote could complicate the situation. To vote for a write-in candidate, the person must fill in an oval beside the write-in option and then write the candidate's name. All write-in ovals are tabulated together, since the computers cannot read handwriting. Determining what name was written in would take place only if the general write-in category comes in either ahead of or within half a percent of the lead after all ballots are counted.
If write-in ballots need to be counted, that wouldn't happen until about two weeks after Election Day, when as many as 30,000 absentee ballots -- which can be postmarked as late as Election Day -- are also tallied.
The Times reports that Alaska elections officials have not spelled out what they will accept from voters who misspell Murkowski's name or abbreviate it. The state director of elections has said that a vote would be counted if "voter intent" can be determined. And just to muddy the waters further, about 150 new candidates registered as write-ins on Friday, encouraged by a conservative radio host who supports Miller.
According to a new Public Policy Polling
survey, Miller leads with 37 percent of voter support, with Murkowski and McAdams both with 30 percent. The poll was conducted Oct. 30-31 and had a margin of error of 2.5 points. Other polls over the last month have shown a virtual dead heat
between Miller and Murkowski.