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Federal judge dismisses challenge to Murkowski's re-election

By the CNN Wire Staff
Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski defeated Tea Party favorite Joe Miller as a write-in candidate in November.
Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski defeated Tea Party favorite Joe Miller as a write-in candidate in November.
  • NEW: The vote count is to be certified at a Thursday morning ceremony
  • NEW: Miller says he is "evaluating the ruling and determining" the next step
  • Sen. Murkowski won as a write-in candidate after losing the GOP primary
  • Murkowski's campaign says the judge's ruling ends her opponent's legal challenge
  • Lisa Murkowski
  • Alaska
  • U.S. Senate

(CNN) -- A federal judge on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit challenging Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski's write-in election victory last month, clearing the way for Murkowski to be sworn in for a second term next week.

State officials have scheduled a Thursday morning ceremony to sign the election certification, according to Sharon Leighow, spokeswoman for Gov. Sean Parnell. The certification will then be flown to Washington to be delivered to the Secretary of the Senate.

Shortly after the ruling, Alaska's lieutenant governor, Mead Treadwell, announced that the director of the Alaska Division of Elections had certified Murkowski as the winner, but his office later retracted that statement.

The final vote count in the election was 101,091 to 90,839.

Murkowski was defeated in the Republican primary in August by Miller, a Tea Party-backed candidate. Murkowski then waged the write-in campaign in the general election in November to defeat Miller, who filed a lawsuit challenging the result.

U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline had previously issued an injunction to block certification of the election results pending a resolution of Miller's lawsuit. In his ruling Tuesday, Beistline said "the injunction is lifted and the Division of Elections may certify the election results immediately."

In Alaska, Beistline's ruling "fully and finally resolved all claims raised by Mr. Miller and stated that they have absolutely no merit and no chance of success," said Scott Kendall, an attorney representing the Murkowski campaign.

Miller said he was "disappointed with the federal court's ruling," adding that he still believes his challenge is on solid constitutional ground.

"Thus, we are evaluating the ruling and determining what our next step should be," he said.

Earlier this month, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled that the Alaska Division of Elections conducted the November 2 general election according to state law. Miller had claimed the way some votes were counted violated state law.

In its ruling, the state Supreme Court affirmed an earlier Superior Court decision, saying: "There are no remaining issues raised by Miller that prevent this election from being certified."

After the election in November, Miller filed a challenge against the Division of Elections to ensure the state law, which calls for write-in votes to match the name of the candidate, was followed. He has argued that Alaska law does not allow the counting of misspelled names on write-in ballots.

However, the Division of Elections set guidelines before counting began that allowed for a voter's intent to be considered when determining whether to count a ballot for a write-in candidate.

In the original Superior Court decisions, a judge ruled that Miller did not provide proof of election official fraud, or that "there would be a sufficient change to the election results if these claims were true."

The Associated Press called the race for Murkowski last month when she had a lead of more than 10,300 votes over Miller, a figure that included 8,159 ballots contested by Miller observers. Not including the contested ballots, Murkowski's lead still exceeded 2,100 votes.