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Senate recount: After unanimous ruling for Franken, attention shifts to Pawlenty -- and Coleman

Al Franken
MinnPost photo by Terry Gydesen
Finally, a year after accepting the Democratic Party's nomination for Minnesota's Senate seat, Al Franken got word today of a unanimous Minnesota Supreme Court decision that could clear the way for his seating In Washington.

Thirty-four Tuesdays ago, 3 million Minnesotans voted, about 292,000 of them by absentee ballots.

Today, five important residents weighed in. And they didn't mail it in.

The Minnesota Supreme Court today, in a unanimous 5-0 decision (PDF), shot down every claim that Norm Coleman and his lawyers made during a seven-week trial and, now, nearly two months of appeals.

In so doing, the justices said that Coleman, who served as U.S. senator for one-term, didn't prove his case … again.

And the judges said that Al Franken, who challenged Coleman in the nation's most expensive U.S. Senate campaign in 2008, is "entitled . . . to receive the certificate of election as United State Senator from the State of Minnesota."

But the court stopped short of ordering Gov. Tim Pawlenty to sign the election certificate immediately. Instead, citing Minnesota's rules of appellate procedure, they allowed Coleman 10 days to file a petition for rehearing. If none is filed, the court's order stands.

Whether Coleman will take the state Supreme Court's decision to the U.S. Supreme Court was unclear. Coleman was to meet the media at 3 p.m. at his St. Paul home.

Franken is scheduled to meet the media at 4:15 p.m. at his Minneapolis home.

Sunday, during an interview on CNN, Pawlenty said, he expected the state Supreme Court to "give guidance and direction as to the certificate of election. I'm prepared to sign it as soon as they give the green light."

He added that, if Coleman appealed, "a federal court could stay or put a limit on or stop the effect of the state court ruling," he said. "If they chose, if they do that, I would certainly follow their direction. But if that doesn't happen promptly or drags out for any period of time, then we need to move ahead with signing this, particularly if I'm ordered to do that by the state court."

That didn't happen today.

Early indications were that Pawlenty would not address the media today on the issue.

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, who is required to co-sign the certificate, issued a brief statement this afternoon, saying, "As required by Minnesota law, I will co-sign the election certificate as soon as it is issued by Governor Tim Pawlenty."

He also said: "This unanimous opinion of the Court affirms the accuracy and fairness of Minnesota's election laws and recount procedures."

Franken can't be sworn in as Minnesota's second senator and the Democrat's 60th until an election certificate is signed. With the Senate in a Fourth of July recess, even if the certificate were signed today, Franken couldn't be sworn in until next week.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, in a statement, said, "I congratulate Senator-elect Al Franken, the next Senator from the state of Minnesota. The people of Minnesota will now finally get the brilliant and hardworking new senator they elected in November and the full representation they deserve. …

"The Senate looks forward to welcoming Senator-elect Franken as soon as possible. He will play a crucial role as we work to strengthen our economy, ensure all Americans can access and afford quality health care, make our country more energy independent, confirm the President's outstanding nominee to the Supreme Court, and tackle the many other challenges we face.

"I once again encourage Governor Pawlenty to respect the votes of his constituents and the decisions of his state's highest court. He should put politics aside, follow his state's laws and finally sign the certificate that will bring this episode to an end."

I thank the Minnesota Supreme Court, the three-judge election contest panel, the State Canvassing Board, local election officials, and all campaign staff and volunteers for their extraordinary efforts in bringing this U.S. Senate election to its conclusion.

This unanimous opinion of the Court affirms the accuracy and fairness of Minnesota's election laws and recount procedures. As required by Minnesota law, I will co-sign the election certificate as soon as it is issued by Governor Tim Pawlenty.

The state two political parties involved in the contest weighed in quickly.

The Minnesota Republican Party criticized the ruling but also talked about moving forward.

"Today's ruling wrongly disenfranchised thousands of Minnesotans who deserve to have their votes counted. Alongside Senator Coleman, the Republican Party of Minnesota has fought to make sure every vote counts and all voters are treated fairly and uniformly. As we move forward, our deeply flawed election system must be dramatically improved to ensure our state's elections are fair, accurate and reliable."

The DFL Party in its statement offered its "heartfelt congratulations once again to Senator-elect Franken, his wife Franni and their family. Throughout this long process, Minnesotans have seen what kind of senator Al Franken will be: determined, patient, thoughtful and ready to work for our state. Now it is time for the senator-elect to be seated so that Minnesota is once again fully represented in the United States Senate."

Party leaders also said the ruling "proves that Minnesotans can take pride in our election process. The close vote, the long recount and the ensuing election contest may have confounded other states. But Minnesota has shown the nation that our system is meticulous, transparent and fair."

They called for quick action to seat Franken.

Today's ruling came after a month of anticipation. The Supreme Court heard arguments from Coleman's and Franken's lawyers on June 1, with Coleman lawyer Joe Friedberg receiving the harshest treatment from the five justices. It was long expected, by legal experts, that the Supreme Court would deny Coleman his claims.

But the legal victory today was as sturdy as Franken could have hoped for.

Now, for a little bit more, the state and the Senate wait.

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Comments (5)

First off, I voted for Coleman. That said, I don't see how the Republicans can say the system is flawed when not one single judge sided with them. Every decision was unanimous.

I had, still have, and will always have confidence in the MN election system, even though my guy lost this time.

Jay Wiener, you have done an excellent job of covering the recount. Thank you and MinnPost for the top-notch commentary and coverage.

One issue, this story is written by Mr. Wiener but after the story it says this:

Doug Grow writes about public affairs, state politics and other topics. He can be reached at dgrow [at] minnpost [dot] com.

Looks like an error.

Once again we're proven Minnesotans are more than just social drinkers.

TJ, you restore my faith that there are "good-faith" Republicans out there. Given the shenanigans in Florida in 2000 and the voting problems in Pennsylvania in '04, I had lost all confidence in R's. Coleman, and your party in general, made their concern about "let every vote count" nothing short of hypocrisy.

Once again Minnesota has proven to the rest of the Country that they do not march to the "Cookie
Cutter" politics like the Sheep in other States.
By electing solid Minnesota citizens like Al & Jessee they show that they understand what is important to Minnesota.

Carpetbagger Coleman and now a Governor like Pawlenty that have no clue about the real Minnesota will soon be gone and a great day that will be.

It is time to get back to Minnesota Politics that reflect real Minnesota Values as expressed by HHH,
Wellstone and Mondale just to name a few. Good schools, clean water, taking care of the environment and protecting Minnesota agriculture and natural resourses is what Minnesota Pols need to focus on.

The Twin Cities is not all there is to Minnesota. The rest of the State is just as important to the well being of the entire State, maybe more so.

God Bless Al Franken and The Land Of Sky Blue Waters.