Miller makes slight gains as absentee votes are counted in Alaska Senate race

Republican Joe Miller has netted just 318 votes so far in Tuesday's count of absentee ballots in Alaska's Senate race, according to a tally from the Anchorage Daily News

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There are still thousands of uncounted absentee ballots and the state division of elections will continue to update totals throughout the night Tuesday, but Miller is still well short of the total number of write-in ballots, the vast majority of which were likely cast for Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).  

The real action begins Wednesday when the sorting and counting of some 83,000 write-in ballots gets under way. 

On Tuesday, the state division of elections released details of the process by which it will sort and count the write-in votes. 

State elections officials will begin by sorting ballots into a number of different categories, including unquestioned write-in ballots that have the correct spelling of Murkowski's name, and ballots on which "the name written appears to be a variation or misspelling of Murkowski." 

Those ballots will then be "reviewed to determine voter intent," the stage of the process that could devolve into a messy legal challenge.  

The write-in category currently leads Miller's vote total by 7 percent, which translates into a lead of some 13,000 votes over Miller. 

If the Republican nominee has any chance of defeating Murkowski, his legal team will have to find a way to invalidate a sizable portion of those write-in ballots.