Mr. Wrong is Right, and Other Strange Tales from the Alaska Senate Rabbit Hole
We should all be used to it by now. Alaska politics will turn into something far more complicated than we believed was possible. The Corrupt Bastards Club, the Ted Stevens trial, the Don Young Coconut Road fiasco, some half-term governor run amok in the Lower 48, and now this – the Alaska Senate race of 2010.
It’s always interesting when you find yourself with a strange bedfellow. That happened quite a bit when Palin had the VP nomination. People who were following the race from Alaska will remember that there were local Republicans a-plenty who wrote some really great scathing pieces about her. Several of them made me smile more than a little, and then suddenly shudder when I found myself thinking things like, “You go, Dan Fagan!” or “Sing it, Paul Jenkins!” Many readers may find themselves doing the same thing now when they read Peggy Noonan, or Karl Rove or George W. Bush who slam the ex-half governor, and future presidential candidate.
So, it is with a whiplash-addled heart that I commend…. (pauses for a shot of vodka)… that I say kudos to (mops brow)… that I agree with (deep breath)… Joe Miller.
It’s ironic that Alaska’s election system, which has more holes than a double-wide wheel of Swiss cheese, has now come under criticism by a Republican. Usually, it’s the Dems who get the short end of that particular stick and the Republicans obfuscate, roadblock, and chuckle to themselves.
If I hadn’t already woken up in bed with Dan Fagan, and Paul Jenkins on previous occasions, this might have been a bit more of a shock to the system. But, Alaskans are getting used to the perpetual fall down the political rabbit hole.
So, grab my hand as we free-fall, and I tell you as we rush down into the dark unknown that – this time Joe Miller has it right. And hold tight as we wizz past lamps and chairs and bookshelves, and I tell you that I agree with him, and with Thomas Van Flein, and with Floyd Brown. (You are staring at me in disbelief as we land with a great “OOOF” at the bottom of the rabbit hole, our fall broken by a giant pile of ballots)
Here’s a press release just released by the Miller campaign (my emphasis added):
Anchorage, Alaska. November 12, 2010 — Today, Joe Miller filed suit in state court in Juneau (see complaint here) in order to compel the State to fulfill its legal obligations under the Public Records Act and allow him to inspect the election registers from certain precincts that voters signed before casting their ballots. Joe Miller said, “The election registers are public records, and there is no excuse for the State attempting to keep them confidential and shield them from public scrutiny until after the vote count is over.” He added, “The public must be permitted to inspect the election registers in a timely manner, before a winner is declared in the U.S. Senate race, in order for the electoral process to remain open, transparent, and fair.”
The Miller campaign consistently has maintained that every valid, lawful vote should be counted. Allowing public inspection of the election registers provides a vital check that helps ensure that legitimate votes are not improperly diluted by illegally or fraudulently cast votes, and that the results of the election are not tainted by mistake or irregularity.
According to the campaign’s chief counsel, Thomas Van Flein, “The State has an absolute duty to disclose crucial public records such as these election registers in a ‘timely, reasonable, and responsive manner.’ During a contested election, timeliness becomes all the more crucial.” He noted that the lawsuit simply asks that attorneys and volunteers for the campaign be given access to inspect the election registers, rather than seeking to require the Division of Elections to make copies, so that Division personnel would not have to be diverted from counting the write-in vote ballots.
Said Van Flein, “I understand that the state said it is busy, but the needs of the public, and the interests of election transparency, require more effort than might otherwise be acceptable. It makes no sense to wait until after November 29 to give us access to records that could impact the validity of the certification process. Now is the time to deal with any potential irregularities, if any.”
Miller emphasized that the campaign was not seeking any private information about voters, or attempting to ascertain how anyone cast their ballot. “Inspecting the registers will allow us to simply count the number of signatures in each precinct, to ensure that no “extra” ballots materialized, and to compare the signatures from the polling places with those already on record, to ensure that the election was conducted in full compliance with state law. This is in essence a quality control check that should be routine for most elections.”
Campaign advisor Floyd Brown added, “We have a team in Juneau standing by to review these records. The matter is urgent. Timing is everything. We cannot be slow-rolled by the state on this. We were left with no choice but to ask a judge to order the state to get these records to the public so they can be reviewed.”
The campaign will likely be filing a motion for summary judgment early next week, along with a request for expedited consideration, asking the court to rule on its claim quickly. However, the campaign also hopes the State will simply allow the Miller team access and then this suit can be dismissed as moot.
Is Miller being paranoid? Maybe, maybe not. My guess is not. Will he manage to pull out a victory? Maybe, maybe not. My guess is not.
But here’s something interesting. It’s a sworn statement from a ballot counter in Juneau. CLICK. Seems as if someone got their mitts on the ballots before the official count, and was kind enough to stack them in piles according to senate candidate. If this sworn statement is true, then the law was broken, as was the chain of custody of the ballots. Are any missing? We don’t know, because the Division of Elections will not let the Miller campaign examine the public records showing how many people signed in to vote, and compare it to the number of ballots.
And here’s another interesting thing that has the Murkowski team, and people who haven’t really stopped to think about it in the context of Alaska’s election system yet, crying “Desperation!” Floyd Brown has apparently asked for a handwriting analysis to be done on a string of ballots cast in Cordova that Miller observers say look similar. Paranoid? Perhaps. If someone added a few extra ballots in Cordova, we’d surely be able to tell by comparing the number of people who signed in to a precinct to vote, to the number of ballots that were actually sent in from that precinct. That’s easy. Let’s just have a look. Oh, wait… We can’t because the Division of Elections says we’re not allowed to review those public records.
This evening another press release comes from the Miller campaign:
Anchorage, Alaska. November 12, 2010 – Today Joe Miller responded to Lisa Murkowski’s attacks on voters. “I am disappointed Murkowksi endorses a complete disregard for state law. Murkowski mocks the very write-in process she invoked by now claiming it is not a spelling or penmanship test,” Miller said.
On September 15, 2010, Lt. Gov. Campbell issued a press statement confirming that the state statutory law would in fact be followed. This was in response to the Director of the Division of Elections statement that she intended to disregard the statute and instead apply her own interpretation to the ballots cast.
Prior to November 2, Murkowski sued the State to get her name printed on a voter list to be posted at every precinct. She did that and argued that, without such a list, a voter might misspell her name and the vote would not count. Murkowski knew what state law was prior to November 2, as did the Lt. Gov.Now, after all the votes were cast, after a candidate list was posted by court order at the polls, after Murkowski spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on advertising proper spelling, wrist bands, tattoos and pencils, now Murkowski claims that the law does not matter. For a person seeking to return to Congress to make laws, this is disturbing, inept and hypocritical.Said Miller, “We are a nation of laws. Murkowski seems to think the laws are malleable, and she can pick and choose which ones she wants to follow and which ones she will violate. Murkowski continues to represent everything that is wrong with D.C. Her beltway attitude, that the laws only apply to the rest of us, is unfortunately too common in D.C.”Finally, Miller noted that “I have stated all along. I want the law followed. If I win this, I want to win this fair and square. One would think Murkowski would have the same goal.”
One would think. As a matter of fact, one would think that all candidates, and all voters would have the same goal regardless of what year it is, what office is being filled, and who has skin in the game. So carry on, and since this election is going to be determined by courts one way or another, let’s enjoy doing a little quality control inspection on the sausage making machine.
And let’s please hurry up with the records request and a full audit of ballots compared to poll books, because someone is hogging the covers and I’m afraid to look and see who it is… (For God’s sake, don’t tell me!)
In the meantime, while we wait, and if you feel like you need further convincing about the sad state of affairs with Alaska elections, pop over to The Brad Blog and check it out HERE.