Monday's vote count in Alaska key for Miller

For Tea Party favorite Joe Miller, Monday's vote count in Alaska's Senate race is likely to determine whether he remains alive in his fight against Sen. Lisa Murkowski's (R-Alaska) write-in effort.  

As of late Sunday, Murkowski was within 1,761 votes of Miller's total, but that number includes more than 7,000 write-in votes that the Miller campaign is challenging either due to incorrect spelling of Murkowski's name or an improperly completed ballot. 

The count continues Monday and the Murkowski campaign appears confident that it can overtake Miller's total, making the number of disputed write-in votes key. 

As it stands now, Miller retains a lead in the undisputed vote total with 87,517 votes to Murkowski's 78,697. But once the more than 7,000 challenged ballots are counted, Murkowski is within 1,761 votes of that total.  

The tally of write-in ballots has gone heavily in Murkowski's favor over the past several days with close to 90 percent of write-ins being counted, unchallenged, for the incumbent. That's right around the percentage her campaign predicted it would need to win in order to emerge from the write-in count with certain victory. 

There are still thousands of write-in ballots to be counted along with some 8,500 absentees, which will be counted this week.

If the number of disputed ballots ends up making the difference for Murkowski over Miller, expect the Republican nominee to forge ahead with a legal challenge — an attempt to have those ballots thrown out. 

Murkowski's campaign is billing Monday's count as the end of the line for Miller if the numbers keep trending in her direction. A Murkowski spokesman said late Sunday that their projections have the incumbent ending the count with a margin of "several thousand votes."

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