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Voter intimidation alleged in Alaska Senate race

With the count of write-in ballots trending heavily toward Lisa Murkowski in the U.S. Senate race, the campaign of Republican nominee Joe Miller announced Thursday it would file suit to gain access to precinct voter records in an attempt to track down what campaign officials said were instances of voting irregularities.

Conservative political consultant Floyd Brown, acting as what he called a “volunteer strategist” for Miller, said the campaign had opened a voter fraud hotline to collect reports he said were flowing in to conservative radio talk show programs claiming bullying of voters, threats of job losses and other forms of purported intimidation aimed at garnering votes for Murkowski.

“There have been serious allegations of voter fraud, voter intimidation, voter bullying,” Brown told reporters at the large warehouse where counting of write-in ballots, 98% of them for Murkowski so far, was winding up its second day.

“We encourage people who have been bullied themselves, people who have been told they would lose their jobs … to call and share their story,” Brown said. “Let me just say that Joe Miller takes these allegations of fraud and voter intimidation very seriously.”

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Brown was short on specifics. He said the campaign had spoken to a fisherman in southeast Alaska who was told he would no longer be able to sell his fish to his regular processor, “a major corporate entity,” if he didn’t remove a campaign sign from his boat.

He also produced an affidavit from a poll watcher in Fairbanks who alleged that the ballot box at his location was opened several times by poll workers to clear jammed ballots, and the ballot counter on the box was inoperable.

Murkowski campaign manager Kevin Sweeney dismissed the allegations as an effort by Miller to muster energy in the face of a substantial lead by Murkowski.

“Faced with those same numbers, faced with those same results, it appears that for the Miller campaign, it’s become desperation time,” Sweeney said.

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Brown has been involved a series of high-profile political campaigns, including the effort to seek the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and to impeach former President Clinton.

He also co-founded Citizens United, which mounted the campaign against former Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis that produced the well-known Willie Horton attack ad. It implied that Dukakis, as governor of Massachusetts, was responsible for Horton’s crime spree after his release from a weekend furlough program.

On Thursday, Brown said that despite write-in ballot counts favoring Murkowski, the 10,000 or more absentee ballots and about 12,000 questioned ballots yet to be counted can be expected to help shrink the incumbent’s lead.

Brown cited a 2006 lawsuit filed by the Alaska Democratic Party seeking release of voter lists and tallies following the 2004 election, in which reported turnout, due to two elections being counted at once, exceeded 100% in some precincts, and in some cases reached 200%.

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He said Miller’s campaign had asked the state Division of Elections to release voter precinct lists, and having still not received them, planned to file suit in state court to obtain them.

Division of Elections Director Gail Fenumiai said the state had received the campaign’s formal request but had not had time to act on it. The state has 10 days under state law to respond.

“We have not refused access. They filed a public records request. But they asked at a time of peak workload for us,” she said.

kim.murphy@latimes.com


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