Judge says Alaska should have at least a tentative U.S. senator by Jan. 3

Associated Press
Wednesday, December 15, 2010

JUNEAU, ALASKA - Alaska should have a U.S. senator in place by the time Congress convenes in early January, even if all of the legal wrangling between the two rivals contesting the seat is not resolved by then, a federal judge said Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline said in a written order that he does not think the state's certification of the race between Republicans Joe Miller and Sen. Lisa Murkowski will necessarily end their dispute over whether write-in ballots were counted properly in the Nov. 2 election.

Miller believes the state mishandled the ballot count and has challenged Murkowski's apparent victory in court.

But Beistline, who has halted certification of the race pending Miller's legal challenge, said Tuesday that one of them should be in place in the Senate byJan. 3, even if that means later having to replace that person when all legal disputes are resolved.

Murkowski's campaign hailed this position and expressed hope that Beistline could resolve the matter before Christmas.

Unofficial results showed Murkowski, a Republican who ran as a write-in, ahead by 10,328 votes; even when ballots challenged by Miller's campaign were excluded, she led by 2,169.

State Judge William Carey rejected Miller's appeal of the ballot count by saying that, regardless of his reading of the law, Murkowski won.

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