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Friday, January 28, 2022

Miller Concedes – Now What?

Happy New Year, Mudflatters. The Mudflats is slowly returning from its hiatus… Of course, I’d never want to come back and all of a sudden just bonk you on the head with a large cast iron skillet, but sometimes we don’t get what we want. This is one of those times.

Over the weekend, there was a big development in Joe Miller’s legal pursuit to clarify election law, and demand a complete hand reconciliation of the Alaska vote count. Our Voices from the Flats contributor, and publisher of The Brad Blog has been following the case closely and has written a great summary with links HERE.

The bottom line is that Joe Miller has decided not to pursue his case any further in federal court and has conceded the race to Lisa Murkowski. Up until this point, Miller has had the support of not only those who wanted him to win, but also some unlikely political foes who were rooting for another winner – us.  If we cannot trust that our vote is counted, and counted accurately, then we have lost the building block of democracy on which all the others stand – and none of us wants that.

Election integrity is an interesting issue. In its purest form, it is completely nonpartisan. When you enter the voting booth, you know that your crazy neighbor, or your boss, or someone else is going to vote the opposite way that you did. But the fundamental sense of fairness, and celebrating the fact that other people have the right to vote the wrong way is one that most of us can agree on. This is a democracy and the very first thing that defines a democracy is the people’s ability and right to govern themselves – to choose the people they want to represent them – to have a say.

Election integrity is kind of like the First Amendment. It’s easy to say that people have the right to free speech. It sounds great. It makes us feel all evolved and ‘exceptional’ that we have this right that many other countries do not. But it’s not so easy to be on the side of free speech when the people exercising it are Nazis, or bigots, or hate groups. That’s when you find out if your First Amendment talk is genuine, or whether you only believe in the Constitution when it suits you.  It’s easy to want election integrity when it means that your candidate might win. But it’s not easy when you know that the candidate you like least of all is the one who appears to stand to gain. “Why do you want Joe Miller to win?” I’ve been asked a hundred times. And a hundred times I’ve answered, “I don’t want Joe Miller to win. I want the process to win. I want us to win.”

We are a long way from winning when a state like Alaska employs mechanical devices that not only have been shown to count inaccurately, but are also vulnerable to tampering; and when laws are unclear and subject to interpretation by one individual; and when the process of the vote is not clear or transparent; and when standard practices actually make it simpler to corrupt your vote, there is a big problem.

As much as those in the center and on the left disliked Joe Miller for a variety of reasons, and as crushed and disappointed as those focused on election integrity are that he dropped the ball before crossing the goal line, we do owe him a debt of gratitude and a big thank you. It isn’t always the people you think, or the people that you would choose that bring vital issues forward. Joe Miller dragged the unpopular nerd that is election integrity out from the dark corner of the dance hall and gave her a big twirl under the lights. People who somehow missed the suit brought by the Democratic Party against the Division of Elections in 2004, paid a little more attention this time. Legislators and other elected officials paid attention. They know that next time, it could be them – regardless of their party affiliation.

So, where do we go from here? Are we content to walk away from the big game, knowing that our team was that close but gave up inches from the goal line? No. What we do is we recognize that we are not defined by one quarterback, and we press on. The goal of an open, honest election isn’t one where we can afford to say, “Oh, well” and go about our business. Alaska is small, and the ultimate goal of what Brad Friedman calls Democracy’s Gold Standard, is easily within our capability, and frankly within the capability of every voting precinct in the country. We must insist from our elected representatives a process that includes hand-marked, hand-counted ballots that are publicly tabulated at every polling place. And before anyone tells you that’s impossible, remind them that this system exists and is used all the time. Unfortunately it does not exist in most parts of the United States, but in Germany, where voting machines have actually been found unconstitutional and the process of the democratic vote count is clear, accurate and transparent.

If Scott McAdams had been the one who stood to gain from this recount, Democrats and progressives would have been all over it, and Republicans would have been calling us whiners and sore losers. Fortunately, Joe Miller has given us the opportunity to actually define ourselves by our principles, and not our team colors. It’s never your friends that give you that opportunity, because it’s easy to be on their side. I’ll never vote for Joe Miller, but I’ll buy him a glass of Gatorade.

So, thanks to Mr. Miller for carrying the football as long as he did. And he may have fumbled it at the last minute – but we recovered it, and what we do with it will be our legacy as citizen voters.



42 Responses to “Miller Concedes – Now What?”
  1. siteunseen says:

    Well, you’ll never find out who really won if a hand recount isn’t in play here. What IF Scott McAdams won? He’s not man enough to help Joe Miller on an important issue here. HOw many votes off were the Diebold? That’s a huge question, and one which needs to be answered. What if the machines were rigged, as they can be, and Murkowski looked like she was ahead, but Joe Miller was ahead, or even Scott McAdams. Wish McAdams would have joined Joe Miller in the fight for a fair election.

  2. mm says:

    Why can’t we have machine voting *AND* paper, human-readable and countable ballots? Here’s how it would work:

    This method allows fast machine counting, perfect crisp, clear legible ballots and complete checking of results by hand. OCR is a proven, reliable technology.

    Make and program a ballot fill-in and printing machine. The base ballot is already formatted and programmed into the machine with field rules (vote for 3 candidates out of 6 for at-large seats; if you write in a candidate you cannot vote for a listed candidate for that office, etc.). All the offices are listed and all the official candidates for each office are listed just like a printed paper ballot or a voting machine.

    You fill it out on a touch screen where the ballot is visible. For long ballots it can be paged and the machine would not allow you to finalize your ballot until you have paged to the end. There is a keyboard available for write in candidates. The keyboard could be on the touchscreen to keep breakable parts to a minimum.

    When you’re done, the machine prints your ballot on a clean sheet of 8.5×11 paper. Your selections are clearly checked, squarely in the check box. No crossouts. No erasures. No hanging or pregnant chads. No extraneous marks. If you write in a candidate it is clearly printed. Field rules can be created for write-ins from an approved list which would allow you to pick the one that you mean from the touch screen. If any write in is allowed you can spell it out and it will be printed clearly. The ballot could be finalized at the last minute and downloaded to the machine. A checksum can be created that certifies that the ballot on the machine is an exact copy of the latest approved ballot.

    With OCR you could print the ballot with every name and a checkbox in a programmed spot or you could print just the title of office, a subhead explaining how many votes per office and just the name of the candidate. The reading machine could be programmed either way.

    You take your printed ballot. Check it over. If it is ok you feed it into the counting machine which scans it and keeps it in a locked bin. If it isn’t you could fold it over, give it to a poll worker who would shred it in front of you and reset the machine to allow you to try again. Having the voter check her ballot is also another test to make sure that the ballot in the machine is a true certified version of the latest approved ballot. If somebody else’s name comes up other than the candidate that you voted for you do not cast that ballot but complain loudly to the poll watchers.

    When your vote is cast by feeding it into the reader, a bell rings and a large counter on the wall increments by 1.

    At the end of the night the counter tells everybody exactly how many ballots were cast at that polling place. (At the beginning of the night the poll watchers from all parties make sure that the counter is set at zero).

    The results can be certified and sent to the central counting area immediately. Any precinct can be spot checked by hand counting at any time after the polls close. If the ballot box has been stuffed, the counter on the wall has to match the number of ballots.

    If you prefer the ballot could be fed into a bin and then removed under supervision and counted with another machine. The bin would not have a passive slot on top, but would have a feeding mechanism similar to the mechanism that accepts deposits in ATM machines. You don’t want to fold the ballot, but have the machine suck in a flat sheet of paper. You want to keep it as clean as possible.

    Why not just give a printed receipt after you vote instead of these extra steps? When you go to the ATM and get a receipt for a deposit or withdrawal you know if it sounds right. Tomorrow you know how much should be in your account and if it changes and you haven’t done anything you can complain to the bank.

    If I vote purple party on the screen and my receipt says purple party, how do I know that the machine has actually tabulated my purple party vote when it totals up at the end of the night? It’s a simple programming problem to write one thing to the screen and another to the counter in the machine. Even if my receipt says purple that may not be what is counted.

    This method gives you three checks: the voter checks their printout to make sure it is their intent. The same printout is fed into the counting machine and the counter on the wall makes sure that the number of ballots counted equals the number of ballots cast. The paper ballot still exists to be hand counted to spot check the machine counts. Since all marks were printed by the official machine it is clean with no extraneous marks that can be challenged.

    When you ride the bus and pay the driver as you board or pay a conductor a counter above the driver’s seat, visible to all passengers increments and a buzzer goes off. This keeps the driver honest and shows the passengers that the driver has taken a fare. When he gets back to the depot he has to have sufficient fares to match the counter. Here you have to have an equal number of ballots to the counter.

    You can’t have a democracy without free and fair elections.

  3. Rob says:

    The Alaskan “People” did not reject the tea party. Big money, unions, Federally backed native corporations, and the liberal media rejected the tea party. Period….

    The people of Alaska spoke strong and clear. BIG money in all forms chose to ignore the people and drove Lisa’s campaign right over them. The people rejected Lisa. She chose to ignore it with the support of big money

  4. Waay Out West says:

    What happens to your ballot if you request a mail in ballot? How is it counted?

    I understand in Oregon all voting is by mail in ballot.

    • Bretta says:

      You mail it back and election central counts it as absentee. All those challenged and absentee ballots are subject to hand verification.

  5. Bill says:

    Minor misspellings ? Give me a break. Of the 103,805 write-in ballots, 463 were rejected for misspellings. Is this what you want ? That’s less than 1/2 of 1 % rejected, but what was the rejection rate in the other Alaska write-in’s ? it was 7 – 8%, if I recall correctly from Nick Begich’s “lesson” on Shannyn Moore’s show.

    Should Gail accept “Murcosaga” (which she did) ? How about Murski (accepted on the “2 out of 3 syllable” rule) ? How about Muskisk ? Moukoky ? All accepted.

    The truth is, there was NO STANDARD in evaluating the ballots. Any middle school kid, given the standard “the name shall be written as it appears on the candidate’s declaration of candidacy”, would not accept Moukoky. Would you ?

    And then, if you further told the middle school student, “you can take into account voter intent”, the most likely response they’d have is, “well, how do I know what the voter intended ?” For example, Gail accepted a correctly spelled name with a sad face drawn. What is the voter intent there ? How about the famous Murcowsh** (not with **). That is clearly a protest vote, no ? Gail accepted that.

    And, truth be told, tell me one area in life where “intended to” works. It doesn’t work ANYWHERE. Certainly not in school, on the playing field, and DEFINITELY not with my wife . . . It is simply not possible to discern voter intent, especially with the vast number of protest votes. And it really is not that hard to spell Murkowski, is it ?

    I am a Miller supporter, so I appreciate this article. And I reviewed thousands of ballots in Juneau, and I watched Gail Fenumia gaze at the ballots, consult with two lawyers before making her decision.

    Is this what Alaska really wants ?

  6. Nan (aka roswellborn) says:

    Fan-freaking-tastic post. Thank you, AKM!

    I haven’t read a single comment yet, so maybe I”m just echoing other’s thoughts. But I’ll chip in for that Gatorade if you’re agreeable.

    Thank you – wonderful post!

  7. You go girl – You know I love these kinds of posts. Well, if you didn’t know – you do now. Right on the money, AKM. Erin, love you, too 🙂
    Though I would like to think that us Dems and semiDems would be more willing to let voter intent prevail, I think it would have been hard not to slip up a bit in our sentiments if we had been .-. close to getting McAdams elected and any opposition votes could be considered questionable.

  8. Zyxomma says:

    Alaska should address these issues at the earliest possible opportunity, viz. before another election. With so few voters statewide, a hand count is feasible. Stay on the backs of your legislators, and let them know you want fair, transparent elections!

  9. Laurainnocal says:

    Alaska’s rather diminutive population (less than half million voters?) makes hand counts feasible, most other states – not realistic.

    • Baker's Dozen says:

      Hand counts are realistic in all states. Each state is broken up into precincts. Each precinct can count their own. It really truly isn’t that hard.
      I will concede that doing a hand recount for a state wide or federal office in CA would be more work, but there’s more people to do it.

  10. Marnie says:

    In view of the 2000 and 2004 cheated POTUS elections, it is not surprising that the Republicans pulled support from Miller at the point his quest would go into federal court.
    if Alaskan courts wanted to ensure votes were counted that was Alaska’s problem but to risk having that issue come up in federal court, when the Bush mafia wasn’t pushing the decisions could have been disaster for future 2000 repeats.

    Some good friends of mine and I had a rather heated discussion in 2000 about what percentage of inaccuracy, or uncounted ballots, was acceptable for an election in a democracy. My point was that if it 2% this year and the sky doesn’t fall then 3% will be OK the next time the issue comes up. Once any inaccuracy is institutionally acceptable there is no faith in the result of any vote any time anywhere, and the erosion of accuracy and faith will never stop.

  11. ibwilliamsi says:

    If you guys start counting all of the ballots, it will make it much more difficult for Joe and his buddies to manipulate the vote next time. He was never going to let it get that far.

  12. John says:

    We need to get the legislature to address these issues this session.

  13. moseyon says:

    I want to congratulate Alaskan voters, for rejecting a Tea Party representative.
    Alaskan people are smarter, then some in the lower 48, who have voted in Tea Parties contenders.
    Look at that one from Arizona, Gosar, he has employed a dentist from Wasilla, Ron Robinson who
    will be his Chief of State. Sarah lawyer Van Flein was also put on his staff. Bristol has bought a house in Arizona also. Makes you wonder.

  14. Lacy Lady says:

    I’ts about time!!!!!!

  15. mary says:

    I see your point but I think we all know that Miller’s lawsuits had nothing to do with his concern for the integrity of Alaskan elections and everything to do with the fact that he has no “plan B”.

    • Rob in Ca says:

      Well, I would rather see someone do the right thing for the wrong reasons than just do the wrong thing.

      I will say, that when it appeared that Joe’s motivation was to deny Lisa her seniority, and give DeMint greater power (by pursuing an appeal the DeMint was funding) – I was strongly opposed to Miller’s actions. That appeared to be corrupt. But when Miller dropped his actions in time for Lisa to be seated with full seniority, that put Miller’s actions in a different light.

      Hopefully, we can now get back to what we were talking about before all this nonsense about stolen elections…which was to point out how pathetic Sarah Palin’s judgement is. She has know Miller for years, and was even working with him to unseat Ruedrich at the time Miller hacked his coworkers’ computers. Yet she backed him for Senator? That turned out to be just another disaster, along with Whitman, Fiorina, O’Donnell, Angle, etc….

    • Rob says:

      And in the same token, we know that lisa’s statement of how she just couldn’t sit there and ignore her supporters after she lost the primary has nothing to do with her concern for the people and the great state of Alaska….

      Every aspect of Lisa’s support and campaign was backed by Federal dollars…. Unions with Federal contracts, Native corporations (kept alive with Federal contracts) etc…

  16. BuffaloGal says:

    Miller carried the ball but only because it was in his best interest to do so. But ! I agree that it was good that the ball was carried .

    And I agree with Erin – I think most Dems would have understood that someone writing in Millar instead of Mller had simply misspelled the name.

    I hate the Diebold system and it needs to be declared , “outta here !” We the people should get to vote on what sort of system is used when we cast our votes. Who chose this Diebold avenue, anyway ?

  17. Wallflower says:

    A great and thoughtful essay.

  18. physicsmom says:

    I agree with both AKM and Erin – they’re not mutually exclusive. This needed to be pursued and taken to the goal posts. Too bad Joe quit now. I suspect he doesn’t have any more money, or at least, money he cares to spend this way.

    One can admit that the misspelled names should be counted for the candidate they most closely approximate and still want a hand-count. His best argument is that Lisa automatically got a hand-count due to the nature of her candidacy, but he was subject to the whims of the Diebold machines. In fairness, all candidates should have been given a hand count. We also need the evidence to prove whether the variance between machine and hand counts is a great as we suspect it is. By giving up now, that remains steeped in mystery and doubt. It’s completely non-transparent.

    Best wishes to the Mudflats clan, especially AKM, Shannyn and Linda.

    • Wallflower says:

      “I suspect he doesn’t have any more money, or at least, money he cares to spend this way.”

      I like your careful wording! Doesn’t he have about $900,000 left over from the campaign?

    • the problem child says:


  19. Erin says:

    I have to disagree with you, respectfully, of course. I would like to believe that if the Democrats were in the fight and had a chance to win, we would be willing to admit that the votes that were slightly misspelled or were clearly for Joe Miller (or Murkowski for that matter) should count for those candidates. I think that voter intent has the most weight here, and it should have the most weight. I thought Gail Fenumiai did an outstanding job.

    • Rob in Ca says:

      I agree…Gail made the right decisions and her judgements were overwhelmingly supported by the courts.

      However, there are still issues that should be clarified or corrected by re-writing the election laws:

      -Eliminate the Diebold machines
      -Address the issue of having a write-in candidate list available ( Is it fair that Murkowski has a disadvantage as a write-in compared to, say, Smith? The list seems a reasonable way to even out the odds, I think)

      -Address the degree of spelling accuracy required. (Obviously if you have Miller and Milker running as write-ins, you need pretty accurate spelling to identify voter intent. If it is Miller and Smith, you could have much wider variations in spelling and still identify voter intent.)

      -Clarify the ID check process. (The courts ruled it unnecessary based on the law as written. Certainly no one should have their vote invalidated because a poll worker forgot to check a box. So, should an ID check even be part of the process?)

      • Bretta says:

        I absolutely agree to eliminating the Diebold machines – then see if this really is a red state. I also agree with your second point about having or not having the list of write-ins names available.

        My concern is the items that we wanted weren’t covered by Miller’s lawsuits.

        • CO almost native says:

          The problems with written lists of write-in candidates available at polls: one, Alaska (and other states) have late cut-off dates for write-ins, so the lists would have to constantly evolve- maybe daily or hourly. Two, this issue of poll workers influencing voters becomes much stronger- discussing /explaining the list, reading the names (and emphasizing one or more)… it’s better to put the onus on the voter to know the candidates and be prepared. Voting history in America, particularly in the South during the Jim Crow era, is full of corrupt examples.

    • AKMuckraker says:

      The challenge to the spelling was only one (albeit the most reported on) issue. I’m completely in support of voter intent trumping good spelling ability. But we do need to acknowledge that the laws as they exist on the books right now need to be clarified so we don’t run into these problems again. And yes, I’d like to think that a Democratic candidate would acknowledge this overarching principle, just as the federal courts have done.

      But issues of chain of command of ballots, destruction of unused ballots on election night, the fact that the state totals are often wildly different than totals obtained by adding each precinct and many other points that Miller raised are also in the mix.

      • I love this essay. There remain important unanswered questions, though, AKM.

        People approached both the Alaska Democratic Party and the Miller campaign soon after the election, suggesting information sharing between Miller’s legal team and the legal team that handled the Dems’ suit over the discrepancies in the 2004 Knowles-Murkowski senate contest. Neither side was interested in creating an alliance that might enable future voters better poll rules or force a complete hand count of the machine votes.

        At the time of the 2010 election, it appears to me, based on questions Brad Friedman asked the DOE back in November, the state was quite willfully in breach of the out-of-court settlement they reached with the Dems by hauling in the University of Alaska and couching all the resultant bullshit inside the HAVA jail cell.

        That the Dems didn’t have anyone on hand to understand the importance of this is one of the biggest indictments of growing incompetence at AK Dem HQ that will endure from this race.

      • Erin says:

        Yep, totally agree with you on all those points. 🙂

    • Barbara says:

      Those that would say Gail did “an oustanding job” were either squarely against Miller or not present at the observing tables. I was there. While the press mostly reported misspellings such as Murcowski or Murkowsky, there were some obscene variations that Gail most readily counted for Murkowski. Also, the standard changed over time. What she would accept one day or one hour or at one table did not hold across time or location. There was also the issue of some precincts having the exact same handwriting on multiple ballots without the accompanying authorization to have someone help with the writing. These were also handily accepted by Gail and counted for Murkowski votes. These are all things that, regardless of party affiliation, we should all want cleared up. My eyes were definitely opened to the vast amount of room for–and potential evidence of–corruption in our voting process. Of course, this and more was whitewashed, minimized and/or entirely ignored by Alaska’s media. They all publicly endorsed Lisa Murkowski. It seems obvious we should expect biased news but, surprisingly, many people overlooked this. We should all have serious concerns about Alaska’s voting process. Please do what you can to encourage your legislators to enact laws that close up the gaps.

  20. jojobo1 says:

    After reading about how the machines can be tampered with I agree a hand count is the way to go..When putting my ballot in a diabold machine I never thought it might not be counted the way I voted.

  21. overthemoon says:

    And I hear there’s a vacancy in Van Flein’s lawyerin’ office. Wanna bet who fills it?

    • PollyinAK says:

      yikes! you think Miller? i doubt it, tho… would the law firm want someone so tarnished?

  22. Laurie says:

    Who could have guessed that this election would turn out this way. It did not turn out the way we wanted, but some good things and some interesting things have come out of it.