JUNEAU, Alaska — Sen. Lisa Murkowski built a 1,706 vote lead over GOP nominee Joe Miller in Alaska's still-undecided Senate race after election officials added the last big batch of absentee ballots on Monday.
Murkowski, the Republican incumbent who waged a write-in campaign after losing the party nomination to Miller in August, has 92,164 votes. But that total includes 7,601 write-in votes that have been challenged by the Miller campaign.
Miller has 90,458 votes.
He has filed a federal lawsuit seeking to have the state follow election law, which calls for write-in ballots to have the oval filled in and the last name of the candidate or the name as it appears on the declaration of candidacy. In the Senate race, it would be "Murkowski" or "Lisa Murkowski."
The state has been using discretion in determining voter intent, allowing minor misspellings and pointing to prior case law as the basis for the move.
Murkowski's camp has said Miller is seeking to disenfranchise thousands of voters who made an effort to write in her name but had trouble doing so.
Miller observers have challenged the 7,601 write-in votes for things such as misspellings, legibility issues, extra words or oddly filled-in ovals.
Some of those ballots included mangled or hard-to-read lettering, but also entries like "Murkowski, Lisa," and "Lisa Murkowski Republican."
Another 1,869 ballots have been challenged and not counted by the state. Many had Murkowski's name written in, but included a blank oval. Murkowski observers objected to the decision.
More write-in votes were due to be counted on Tuesday, and it's estimated that as many as 600 more ballots from overseas and military addresses could be submitted by a Wednesday deadline. The state plans to count those ballots by Friday.