27 October 2010

She Who Must Not Be Named

Two noteworthy items from the Last Frontier of Campaigning.

Firstly, the Alaska State Superior Court Judge Frank Pfiffner has ordered that the Alaska Division of Elections must remove a list of certified write-in candidates from polling places.  The Division of Elections anticipated that there might be some confusion amongst voters in regards to Senator Lisa Murkowski’s  (?-AK) write-in candidacy, so it had unilaterally drew up a list for any enquiring voters at the polling place.

This effort to help Murkowski directly contravenes Alaska regulations that forbids any information about write in candidates within 200 feet of a polling place.  The Alaska Democrat Party filed the lawsuit but was joined by the Alaska Republican Party.  Judge Pfiffner cited past practices in his ruling

If it were important 'assistance' for the division to provide voters with lists of write-in candidates, then the division has been asleep at the switch for the past 50 years. The division first developed the need for a write-in candidate list 12 days ago.

Patti Higgins, the Chairwoman of the Alaska Democrat Party which filed the lawsuit suggested that the Division of Elections could have changed the regulation using an emergency procedure but instead chose to take a unilateral course of action.  The State will appeal this case to the Alaska Supreme Court.

The Murkowski campaign spokesman put on a brave face and expressed confidence that voters who wanted to fill in the oval for write in candidates and fill out her name would not be deterred.  There may be some concern, however, about spelling Murkowski.  To that end, Alaskans Standing Together, the Native ad-hoc independent expenditure committee, has printed out a bunch of fake Lisa Murkowski tattoos that were distributed at a Native convention.  Staffers from Alaskans standing together encouraged their members to hide these temporary monochromatic tattoos so as not to violate state regulations about campaign materials within 200 feet of a polling place.

The second eye-catching item from Alaska is a new ad produced by the Republican Senate nominee Joe Miller.   He intentionally plays off of the slight against Delaware Republican Senate nominee Christine O’Donnell to frame his race against Murkowski in a Halloween hue.  It is unclear if Miller was trying to produce a quirky campaign ad to go viral or to energize more Tea Party types to his cause.

In my estimation, it was a better ad than the John Dennis Oz motif against Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA 8th).  Miller’s ad was also clever to play off of the Harry Potter “She Who Must Not Be Named”, which subtly touches on a write in’s candidates challenge.  But if there is any solace for Murkowski, Alaskan Election staff certainly have been very sympathetic to her plight and there is a history of being generous in judging write in voters’ intent.

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