Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) scored a victory late Tuesday when a judge ruled that the 2010 election results may be certified before the prolonged legal battle is brought to a close.
The ruling means that Murkowski should be certified the winner of her race with Republican Joe Miller before the next Congress begins on Jan. 3. Senators are scheduled to be sworn in on Jan. 5. That would ensure that Murkowski wouldn't lose any seniority in the chamber because of a delay in certification.
U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline, who originally delayed the certification of the election results in light of Miller's challenges, said that if Miller eventually wins his lawsuit and it influences the election results, the state could revoke the certification.
Miller is challenging how Alaska counted write-in ballots, arguing that ballots that did not have Murkowski's name written as it was on her candidacy declaration should be thrown out. A lower state court ruled against Miller last week but he has appealed to the Alaska Supreme Court. That hearing is scheduled for Friday.
According to the Anchorage Daily News, the Beistline's ruling was not all bad news for Miller. Beistline also indicated that if Miller loses in the state Supreme Court, he'd allow Miller to bring his case to in the federal court.
Murkowski's camp said in a statement that it hopes the legal battle will be resolved before Christmas.
"We are encouraged that Judge Beistline has recognized the need to resolve this case in order for the state to proceed with certifying the results of the election in which Senator Murkowski was clearly victorious," said Murkowski campaign manager Kevin Sweeney. "[The] order illustrates the judge's commitment to decide this quickly."