The hand counting of write-in and absentee ballots continues in Alaska today, where incumbent Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski appears on the verge of a historic victory over tea-party Republican nominee Joe Miller.
As of late afternoon, Nov. 15, state election officials had verified that Murkowski has scored 92,164 of the over 102,000 write-in ballots cast, or close to 90 percent. Miller's vote tally was at 90,448.
The Miller campaign has challenged 7,601 of the write-ins, but election officials have accepted none of Miller's challenges so far.
Murkowski was defeated by the ultraconservative Miller in the Republican primary. Miller, a lawyer, had the support of former Alaska governor and vice-presidential nominee, Sarah Palin. Palin is the darling of the national, conservative, grassroots tea party movement, and Miller received monetary support from the Tea Party Express.
Murkowski decided on a write-in campaign. If she wins, it will be the first successful write-in campaign for the U.S. Senate in 56 years.
All the state's voting districts have reported. There are only about 8,500 write-in ballots still be inspected and tallied, and several thousand more absentee ballots to count. Miller has had an advantage in absentee ballots, but with Murkowski getting 90 percent of the write-ins, it appears highly unlikely that Miller can catch her.
Joe will receive very few more votes, with the exception of a couple hundred overseas ballots to come in, said Murkowski campaign manager Kevin Sweeney. However, it looks like Lisa will be credited with about 10,000 more write-in votes once they have been reviewed in Juneau. If the unchallenged rate proceeds as it has for the past five days, Lisa stands to win the race, even accounting for Joe Miller's challenges.
And when that happens, we expect him to concede this race as he has indicated he would, Sweeney said.
Miller does have the option of taking election officials to court for allowing the ballots his campaign challenged.
The Division of Elections said it expects the write-in process to wrap up Wednesday.