Alaska's election drama shows wisdom of top-two primary

A write-in campaign wouldn't have been needed if the top-two primary finishers faced off in November.


It now looks certain that the write-in campaign for re-electing Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, will end in success.

Yet, the drama -- and the hard feelings -- continue.

Murkowski's challenger and fellow Republican, Joe Miller, could be going to court to get a recount. Meanwhile, his supporters have challenged some of the write-in ballots for Murkowski because her name isn't spelled correctly by those who wrote it in on their ballots.

The challenges were silly -- and wrong. Voter intent must be the deciding factor in determining whether ballots will be counted.

Writing in the name Murkowski is clearly more challenging than writing Smith or Jones. It's hardly a surprise when a vowel or two is either missed or added. Still, the name is distinctive. So if voters get anywhere near the spelling -- Murkowskee, Murkiskee or Murcowski -- it is close enough to say that voters meant to cast their ballot for Lisa Murkowski.

As of Wednesday, Murkowski has enough approved votes in her favor that the disputed votes won't matter.

Winning an election with a write-in campaign is as difficult as it is rare. The last U.S. Senate candidate to win as a write-in was Strom Thurmond in 1954.

Murkowski was forced into mounting a write-in campaign because Miller, a tea-party favorite, was able to secure the GOP nomination in Alaska, which leans heavily to the political right. That generally means the Republican candidate is a shoo-in to win the General Election.

It's a similar situation to Eastern Washington where Republicans are so popular that Democrats usually offer only a token candidate. Or, at least, they used to take that approach.

But that's changed since Washington state voters adopted the two-top primary. Now the top-two finishers in the primary, regardless of party, move on to the General Election. As a result, the races in November are more meaningful.

The same thing is occurring in Western Washington where voters tend to be more liberal. Now we are seeing Democrats facing Democrats in November.

Alaska had the same scenario, but it had to be accomplished the hard way.

The fact is fewer voters are paying attention to politics in the summer. Most folks don't even begin think about who they support until Labor Day. It just makes sense to have the two most viable candidates face off in November -- when it counts.

Sure, that probably stings for Miller. He thought he had clear sailing after his primary victory.

But the voters have spoken. Lawsuits are not needed.

Anyway you spell Murkowski, she won the election.

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