Accusations fly over Alaska vote count

The first round of absentee ballots has yet to be counted in Alaska's Republican Senate primary, but the campaign of Tea Party-backed Joe Miller spent the weekend accusing his opponent and the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) of setting the stage for a legal challenge should Miller emerge the winner.

Miller holds a lead of fewer than 2,000 votes over Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) after last Tuesday's primary. More than 24,000 ballots must still be counted.

In a letter to the state division of elections Sunday, a lawyer for Miller also made an allegation of potential vote-tampering by an election observer connected to Murkowski.

From the Alaska Dispatch:

In the letter, Miller attorney Thomas Van Flein accuses the observer, who he calls Mike, of accessing the Division of Elections computer database for 20 minutes to "check voter records." That Mike had access to private data was bad enough, Van Flein said in a letter, but the Diebold voter software used by the state is also vulnerable to voter hijacking. Miller cites a a 2007 election security report that said such access could lead to "a large scale election fraud" and could happen in less than a minute of unfettered access.

"Does this not require a hand count of each ballot at this point, or an IT audit to verify that no information was accessed, no software installed and no virus exists in the system?" Van Flein wrote in his letter to elections officials.

Van Flein, also a family lawyer for former Gov. Sarah Palin, said the observer used an iPhone to text while observing the count, claiming that the observer could have been "texting" private voter information. Mike was also observed writing notes by hand about voters, Van Flein said.

As a result, Van Flein is requesting troopers be posted at each regional office until the ballots are counted.

Miller spokesman Randy DeSoto claimed over the weekend that calls were going out to Republican primary voters asking which candidate they cast their absentee ballot for. DeSoto pointed a finger at the NRSC.

"It is definitely not being done by the Joe Miller campaign. It is being done, I believe, by the National Republican Senatorial Committee or someone they contracted with as the beginning of a legal battle to throw out ballots," he told the Anchorage Daily News.

The NRSC and the Murkowski campaign both denied they were phoning voters in the state.

The first round of absentee ballots will be counted Tuesday. According to the state division of elections, more than 7,000 absentees will be tallied in the initial count, with subsequent counts set for Sept. 3 and 8.