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Judge: Alaska court must decide Senate dispute

| November 23, 2010 8:00 PM

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - A federal judge has granted a temporary injunction halting the certification of Alaska's hotly contested Senate election - an order that requires Republican candidate Joe Miller file a formal challenge of the vote count in state court.

In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline said Friday that Miller's challenge to the counting of write-in ballots raises "serious" legal issues.

But he said it was a matter for a state, not federal, court to decide. He approved the injuction that Miller sought with the stipulation that he takes his case to the state court by Monday. Miller told The Associated Press late Friday that he intended to do so.

Beistline's unusual action was intended to "ensure that these serious state law issues are resolved prior to certification of the election," the ruling said.

Miller sued in federal court in a bid to stop the state from using discretion in determining voter intent on write-in ballots cast for his election rival, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who declared victory in the race Wednesday. She mounted the write-in campaign after losing to Miller in the GOP primary.

State law calls for write-in ballots to have the oval filled in and the candidate's last name or name as it appears on their declaration of candidacy written.

But the state pointed to case law in counting Murkowski ballots that contain misspellings or were phonetic to her name. Lt. Gov. Craig Campbell, who oversees elections, has defended the practice.

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