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Murkowski, Miller lawyer up, seek donations in anticipation of ballot showdown

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Posted: Saturday, November 6, 2010 4:22 am | Updated: 1:27 pm, Wed Dec 26, 2012.

FAIRBANKS — Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Joe Miller are gearing up for a legal battle as the Alaska Division of Elections prepares to tally write-in votes next week.

Both Republican candidates have set up legal funds for the process. Individuals can donate up to $2,400 to such a fund, even if they donated the maximum amount to the candidate’s general election campaign.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee, a national group dedicated to electing and re-electing Republicans, also issued a statement Friday asking supporters to make donations to Miller, who defeated Murkowski in the August primary to become the party’s nominee.

“Both sides are beginning to lawyer up and prepare for any possible legal fights,” Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the chairman of the NRSC, said in a statement. “Joe needs your help to make sure he has enough money to make it a fair contest,”

Meanwhile, the Alaska GOP said earlier this week it will support whichever candidate wins the election.

More than 83,000 write-in ballots were cast in Alaska’s Senate contest, and, as of Friday, those write-in votes, most of which are presumably for Murkowski, held a lead of more than 13,000 over Miller.

Elections officials have said they will count misspellings of Murkowski’s name, so long as “voter intent” is clear, a sticking point for the Miller camp.

“All Alaskans deserve a free, open and fair election,” Miller said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the state Division of Elections has decided to call that process into question with the constant maneuvering of dates and procedures.”

Murkowski announced Friday she has opened her own legal fund, which she calls the Alaska Voter Protection Fund. She plans to return to Washington on Monday to hold a fundraiser for the upcoming legal battle and has also recruited election law expert Ben Ginsberg, who assisted President George W. Bush during his 2000 battle over Florida votes with Al Gore.

Murkowski campaign manager Kevin Sweeney said it’s hard to know exactly how much the legal proceedings will cost.

But he said the campaign is confident in Murkowski’s lead.

“I think our education campaign was successful, and in the end we’ll have an insurmountable lead,” he said.

Contact staff writer Chris Freiberg at 459-7545.

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