Attorneys heading to the exits in Alaska?

It’s never a good sign for your case when your lawyers leave town, but there’s a reason for it in this case.  As the number of write-in ballots to be counted dwindle, the number of necessary $500-per-hour eyeball pairs dwindle as well (via GretaWire):

The lawyers have started leaving.

That is perhaps the surest sign that Joe Miller’s chances of becoming the next senator from Alaska are evaporating. With each passing day that election workers here in the state capital manually count write-in votes cast for Senator Lisa Murkowski, it appears increasingly likely that Alaskans spell too well for Mr. Miller’s math to work.

Assisted by lawyers sent by the Republican National Senatorial Committee, the Miller campaign set out to challenge every smudge, stray mark and misspelling they could find (and, often, only they could find) on write-in votes that appeared to be for Ms. Murkowski. ..

Now the dispute could become irrelevant. After three days of counting, the state has determined that 98 percent of write-in ballots were cast for Ms. Murkowski – and 90 percent of those were cast so cleanly that they have survived even the sometimes bafflingly strict scrutiny applied by monitors working for Mr. Miller.

Even if every ballot his campaign has challenged was thrown out in court, which is not likely, Mr. Miller could gain less than 10,000 votes. Several thousand absentee ballots that remain to be counted could help him narrow the margin, but not likely enough for him to win. The write-in count is expected to last several more days.

It’s not just Miller’s attorneys who have begun leaving, either.  Ben Ginsberg, who helped shepherd the Bush recount in Florida for the 2000 presidential election and was assisting Murkowski, has already left, as have three of the other seven attorneys sent by the NRSC to help Miller.  That still leaves half of them in place, and the reduced number makes sense anyway.  During the hand count of write-ins, a campaign needs more attorneys on scene to ensure that they flag every potential violation.  As that process concludes, the extra attorneys tend to be redundant, as well as incredibly expensive.

The next phase, absentee ballot tabulation, will require less supervision in the first counting.  Those will get read by machines, still under close scrutiny, but without the need of large staffs of attorneys.  Miller will probably make some gains in the absentee balloting, for a couple of reasons.   Most of them were probably cast before Murkowski managed to draw a little blood with Miller’s ethics violation, which turned out to be so petty as to be laughable (participating in online polls while working in a government office).  Since absentee voters didn’t get the list of write-in candidates that existed at the booth, the misspellings in Murkowski’s name will probably go up when the remaining attorneys supervise the hand-counting of the much smaller number of write-ins in this phase.

Because of the large gap between Miller and the write-in totals, Miller needed to see a good percentage of those votes going to the protest candidates that flooded the certified write-in list or being incoherent enough to challenge.  If 90% of these ballots hold up for Murkowski, there may not be enough absentee ballots to make up a 9,000-vote gap — and that’s usually far too large to reverse in a recount.