. . . they may still be counting votes.
The ballots are still being counted in the Alaska Senate race. I already know, however, who really is winning. Or maybe who really is losing.
English teachers and editors.
After incumbent Senator Lisa Murkowski lost the Republican primary to Joe Miller, she close to run in the general election as a write-in candidate. Miller got some 82,000 votes, around 34% of the total. Over 92,000 voters, about 40%, cast write-in votes. Yes, there was a Democrat in the race as well. The one thing that's clear about the election results is that he lost with his 24%.
Presumably, most of the write-in votes are for Murkowski, which could make her the winner. But people could have voted for their ex-spouses, their former mayors, themselves, or their dogs. All 92,000 of the write-in ballots have to be counted, by hand. Observers for both candidates are looking over the counters' shoulders, eager to pounce on the smallest irregularities.
The Miller campaign, of course, has a strong incentive to throw out as many ballots as possible. They're challenging write-in votes on any pretext they can find. For all I know, that includes smudges, fingerprints, coloring outside the lines, or using the wrong writing implement. A permanent marker, maybe, or a "Passionate Petunia" lipstick, rather than a blue pen or that old-fashioned standby of standardized tests, the number 2 pencil.
Most of the challenges, though, are for spelling. Apparently some of them are based on trivial points like an "o" that could be taken for an "a" or the name's first letter in cursive but the rest in block letters. This seems clearly ridiculous.
But what about a scrawled vote for Mercowsky? Or McKovski? Or Morescowky? How close is close enough to be sure that the voter genuinely intended to vote for Murkowski? It's a legitimate if nitpicking question, one sure to keep flocks of lawyers busy for weeks.
In the meantime, three conclusions are obvious:
1. When your English teachers told you over and over again that spelling mattered, they were right.
2. Even in today's high-tech world, there are still times when good handwriting is important.
3. If you ever want to run as a write-in candidate, maybe you should consider changing your name to Smith.