ANCHORAGE, Alaska — U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski says Republican rival Joe Miller may be creating doubt in the minds of Alaskans about the integrity of the voting process by ratcheting up the hyperbole about possible election fraud.
Murkowski says the Miller camp seems to be paranoid in every step along the way.
Miller on Monday renewed accusations of campaign irregularities as the Alaska Division of Elections prepared to count outstanding ballots.
Miller holds a lead of fewer than 1,700 votes over Murkowski.
He says Murkowski campaign workers have contacted absentee voters to find out how they voted with the possible goal of challenging his votes. His camp also asked for an investigation into possible tampering.
Murkowski says she wants to see all votes counted, and there's no "nefarious plot."
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) – U.S. Senate hopeful Joe Miller on Monday renewed accusations of campaign irregularities as the Alaska Division of Elections prepared to count absentee and questioned ballots in the tight primary race.
U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski in a statement said she was astounded that Miller continues to make accusations that both the National Republican Senatorial Committee and her observers are attempting to skew the results of last week's primary election.
In a phone interview Monday, Miller said he remains concerned with how Murkowski campaign workers have contacted voters.
"The concern that I have stated before is the concern of contacting absentee voters – finding out how they voted – and then just making knee-jerk challenges to those ballots in an effort to, obviously, having more of the Joe Miller votes thrown out on technicalities," Miller said.
Miller holds a lead of fewer than 1,700 votes over incumbent Murkowski in the Republican primary.
An attorney for the Miller campaign, Thomas Van Flein, who's also Sarah Palin's attorney, on Monday formally asked Lt. Gov. Craig Campbell for an investigation into possible tampering by an observer for the Murkowski campaign.
In a letter, Van Flein claimed an observer for the Murkowski campaign at the Mat-Su Division of Elections accessed a state computer for about 20 minutes on Friday while absentee ballots were being verified. Van Flein said the observer may have copied voter information.
He questioned whether a hand-count of the absentee ballots should be required, or at least a review of the computer.
He also requested Alaska State Troopers be posted to counting offices.
Murkowski, in her statement, said Miller has repeatedly accused Murkowski and the Republican Party of trying to steal the election.
"I have complete faith in our system and I am astounded that Mr. Miller continues to make blatantly false accusations that there is something nefarious happening," she said. "Observers from both sides are at regional election offices to ensure that Alaskans get a fair vote count. For someone who wants to be Alaska's Republican nominee for Senate, Mr. Miller is certainly afraid of Republicans," she said.
Campbell in a statement said he has discussed the complaint with Attorney General Dan Sullivan and initiated a review. He said the allegations did not require assigning troopers to protect ballots.
Miller said he hopes that absentee and questioned ballot counting Tuesday will show him to be the definitive winner of the Republican primary. As of Sunday, 25,510 ballots remained to be counted, including 15,730 absentee ballots, 9,117 questioned ballots and 663 early election night votes.
Gail Fenumiai, director of the Division of Elections, said that the counting of many of the ballots will begin at 10 a.m. in Anchorage and as late at 3 p.m. at other regional sites. Most results should be in by 8 p.m., she said.
Murkowski likely will have to win the GOP nomination to have a reasonable shot at retaining the seat in the heavily Republican state.
The Alaska Libertarian Party's executive committee in an emergency meeting Sunday morning decided it would not consider swapping out its senatorial candidate for Murkowski. Party Chairman Scott Kohlhaas said neither Murkowski nor her campaign staff had approached the Libertarians but speculation was running high.
"It's distracting us from our task at hand," he said, which is to get a Libertarian elected to the state Legislature.
Kohlhaas listed fundamental differences he said Murkowski has with the party, including its backing of a free market economy and neutrality in foreign policy. Murkowski has voted for industry bailouts and pro-war legislation, he said.
While in the Alaska Legislature, Murkowski sponsored a bill that tied Alaska Permanent Fund dividends to Selective Service registration, Kohlhaas said, which runs contrary to Libertarian philosophy of self-ownership, not "state-ownership."
"We never got over that," he said.
Murkowski said the talk of a third party effort was not coming from her campaign.
"I am focused on the remaining ballots and the final vote count," she said. "I would encourage Mr. Miller to do the same.