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Q&A: Alaska adding up write-in names in U.S. Senate race

Counting the write-ins in Alaska

I've seen several stories about the unresolved Alaska Senate race and I still don't understand how it works. Can you explain?

Apparently, the rules are different in Alaska.

But before we get to those rules, let's recap. Republican Lisa Murkowski was the incumbent U.S. senator running for a second term.

She was beaten in the Republican primary by Joe Miller, a favorite of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and the tea party. On Sept. 18, Murkowski announced she would run as a write-in candidate. Also on the ballot was Democrat Scott McAdams.

Here's where the unusual rules come into play. In Alaska, all write-in candidates are lumped together when votes are counted. On Nov. 2, the write-in option captured 41 percent of the vote, compared with Miller's 34.3 percent and McAdams' 23.6 percent.

Alaska law says when the write-in total wins or comes within 1 percentage point of the top vote-getter, those ballots are then read by elections officials to determine which names voters wrote in.

Murkowski was the only declared write-in candidate, so it's presumed that her name is on those ballots and she will win. But nothing is official until the write-ins are evaluated and totaled. And as Floridians who lived through the 2000 election recount, we all know how contentious that process can be.

The results aren't expected before Thanksgiving.

Dead candidate's win confusing

I heard on the radio that a dead woman was elected to something on Nov. 2. What are the details?

Jenny Oropeza, a Democrat running for re-election to the state Senate District 28 seat in California, died Oct. 20 at the age of 53. She had reportedly suffered from cancer and also had a blood clot that forced her to miss some election activities.

Her death came too close to the election for her to be replaced on the ballot. Democrats did not want to forfeit the seat to the Republican challenger, John Stammreich, and urged voters to select Oropeza anyway.

Oropeza collected 58 percent of the vote to 36 percent for Stammreich. Republicans were unhappy, but Senate Democratic spokesman Jason Kinney defended the move.

"Given the tragic and highly unusual circumstances of this race, Senate Democrats felt an obligation to directly communicate to voters in Sen. Oropeza's district that voting for Sen. Oropeza on Tuesday was the best way to ensure they ultimately have a real, meaningful choice about who will serve them in the Senate for the next four years," he told the Los Angeles Times.

What next? A special election will be called by the governor — either outgoing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger or incoming Gov. Jerry Brown. The California Legislature reconvenes Dec. 6.

Q&A: Alaska adding up write-in names in U.S. Senate race 11/11/10 [Last modified: Thursday, November 11, 2010 10:16am]

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