UPDATE: The Al Franken campaign today asked Gov. Tim Pawlenty to step into the U.S. Senate recount-cum-election challenge.
Indeed, Franken’s side said it is Pawlenty’s “duty” to do so as early as today.
In a conference call with reporters, Franken lawyer Marc Elias said that another Franken lawyer – former U.S. Attorney David Lillehaug – has sent a letter (PDF) to Pawlenty and Secretary of State Mark Ritchie noting that it’s been seven days since the State Canvassing Board determined that Franken has more votes than Sen. Norm Coleman, whose term expired on Jan. 3.
But swiftly, Ritchie said he won’t sign the certificate.
“Minnesota law is very clear on when a certificate of election can be issued,” Ritchie said. “Neither the governor nor I may sign a certificate of election in the U.S. Senate race until all election contests have reached a final determination. Even if the governor issues a certificate of election prior to the conclusion of the contest phase, I will not sign it.”
Shortly after, Pawlenty also issued a statement saying he won’t sign the certificate of election:
“I have a duty to follow state law, and our statutes are clear on this issue. I am prohibited from issuing a certificate of election until the election contest in the courts has been resolved.”
Lillehaug urged the two state leaders to issue an election certificate to Franken, who, according to the Canvassing Board, won the 2008 U.S. Senate race by 225 votes.
“The idea that a certificate of election should be issued before a legislative election contest is concluded is hardly novel,” Lillehaug wrote, citing Minnesota law. Federal law also applies, Franken’s lawyers say.
The Franken campaign is asserting that Pawlenty and Ritchie should issue an election certificate to Franken and allow him to present that to U.S. Senate leaders.
But, Elias allowed, if Coleman should somehow win the election contest, then a new election certificate would have to be issued for Coleman. Unless and until the courts make a definitive ruling on the election, Franken’s election certificate would have an interim status.
“Our position is that Minnesota ought to have two senators pending the resolution of a contest,” said Elias.
No, Elias said, U.S. Senate leaders, such as Majority Leader Harry Reid, haven’t guaranteed Franken would be seated in the Senate while the contest ensues.
“No, we have not sought assurances, we haven’t received assurances,” Elias said, adding “a question of seating … is best left to the Senate.”
Indeed, Sen. John Cornyn, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, wrote an opinion piece in Roll Call, the Washington publication, saying Franken shouldn’t be seated until the courts decide in Minnesota.
But, clearly, getting Franken onto the floor of the Senate would be another political event helping to solidify in Minnesotans’ minds that the Democratic challenger has, indeed, won the election.
The Franken side today also responded to the Coleman election challenge petition, which was filed last week. As expected, Franken wants to know about some uncounted votes, too.
MinnPost is seeking reaction from all the key parties and chasing down all the documents.
More later in the day.