State plans internal review of election handling

JUNEAU -- Alaska's new lieutenant governor plans an internal review of the state's handling of the contentious U.S. Senate race.

Mead Treadwell said Thursday that his office will work with the state Department of Law and Division of Elections on the review, which will begin once the legal wrangling over the seat is finished.

Three courts have refused to overturn election results favoring Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who was certified the winner Thursday. Republican Joe Miller is set to announce today whether he'll appeal the latest court decision, officially protest the election or concede.

Treadwell said last week that he didn't anticipate the administration proposing changes to election law. On Thursday, though, he left open the possibility that it might, once the review is complete.

He said the intent is to look at the more "controversial points" of the elections -- things like providing voters who ask with a list of qualified write-in candidates and the issue of voter intent -- and to see what lessons were learned and what might be improved.

In Alaska, the lieutenant governor oversees elections. Treadwell's predecessor, Craig Campbell, presided over the Senate race, which included a write-in campaign, the likes of which the state had never seen before, mounted by Murkowski after she lost her primary to Miller.

Campbell did not seek re-election and Treadwell took office earlier this month.

In the past, write-in status was generally relegated to little-known, little-funded candidates. Those labels didn't apply to Murkowski, Alaska's senior senator, who waged a high-profile campaign.

This forced the state to come up with rules for how to run the election. Its decision to provide voters with lists of write-in candidates was challenged by the state Republican and Democratic parties -- the state Supreme Court allowed for use of the lists, in limited circumstances. And the state had to decide what it would consider a valid vote for Murkowski.

Officials pointed to case law in the decision to use discretion to determine voter intent and to allow for ballots with misspellings to be counted for Murkowski's tally.

That was challenged by Miller, who argued that practice was not in line with a strict reading of election law. The Supreme Court ruled that voter intent is "paramount" and a federal judge declined to second-guess that assessment, though the judge also said he could understand Miller's point of view on the issue.