ANCHORAGE, Alaska, Nov. 20 (UPI) -- A federal judge in Alaska says a state judge should decide if disputed write-in votes cast in a contentious senate race should be counted.
At issue is whether write-in votes for Sen. Lisa Murkowski meet the state's legal standard which says voters must write a candidate's name the same way it appears on his or her filing papers, The New York Times reported.
Republican candidate Joe Miller, a Tea Party favorite, would still trail Murkowski by about 2,000 votes even if all of the more than 8,000 disputed write-in votes were ruled ineligible, the report said.
Miller challenged 8,159 write-in votes, claiming they don't meet state law requiring them to be written, "as it appears" on the candidate's declaration form.
U.S. District Court Judge Ralph Beistline placed a conditional hold on results of the race, but said it is up to a state court to determine if the write-in votes meet the letter of the law.
Alaska officials said the state's legal precedent dictates that votes should be counted if it is possible to determine the voter's intent.
Miller said in a statement he is "gratified to have Judge Beistline recognize that we have raised vital questions concerning the ballot review in this election."
Miller's campaign has also alleged fraud and other irregularities in the Nov. 2 election.