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Joe Miller: A voter lawsuit still active over Alaska's Senate race

Jill Burke

Although Lisa Murkowski just renewed her oath of office for a second full term as one of Alaska's U.S. Senators, and her fervent rival Joe Miller has called off his fight over her election win, a half dozen voters are still trying to prove the State of Alaska and its Division of Elections screwed up.

On Dec. 10, one day after Miller lost the first in a series of three court cases regarding the fairness of the ballot count and the validity of votes, a small group of known Miller supporters filed their own lawsuit over the same issues in federal court.

As Miller unsuccessfully fought before the Alaska Supreme Court and U.S. District Court to block ballots containing misspellings of Murkowski's name and those with other perceived flaws or handling errors, the six-voter plaintiff's group of Miller allies was waiting for its complaints to also be heard.

Harold Frederick Rudolph, Sr., Gerald Gugel, Jr., April J. Pugh, Kevin Hite, John M. McKenzie and Lola G. McKenzie claim that the state violated the Voting Rights Act by accepting misspellings on write-in ballots, using different counting methods for different types of candidates (ballots for write-in candidates underwent a hand review whereas ballots for candidates with pre-printed names were assessed by machine) and by allowing some voters to vote without showing identification.

For reasons not explained in the complaint, the group's attorney, Thomas Wickwire, identifies all plaintiffs except for Hite as being Alaska Native.

Wickwire is from Fairbanks and appears to be the same Thomas Wickwire who used his personal plane to whisk Miller to a few campaign events. Those jaunts resulted in some controversy when an activist filed a complaint questioning whether Miller should have paid more for the flights, per campaign finance rules.

The state of Alaska has denied the group's claims, and in a court filing responding to the lawsuit, called the lawsuit moot, further suggesting that the issues raised are beyond the statute of limitations.

Unlike Miller's election challenges, which were heard speedily, the voters' case hasn't yet gotten very far. On Jan. 5 U.S. District Court Judge Ralph Beistline -- the same federal judge who last month decisively ruled against Miller and shut down his election challenge -- ordered the dissatisfied voters and the state to meet within three weeks and come up with a schedule by which to proceed.

Contact Jill Burke at jill(at)alaskadispatch.com.