TOPICS > Politics

Despite Court Ruling, Minn. Senate Seat Looks to Stay Empty for a While

BY Admin  April 14, 2009 at 5:45 PM EST

Al Franken; file photo

Coleman immediately announced plans to appeal the decision
to the state Supreme Court within the next 10 days. His lead attorney, Ben
Ginsberg, said the former senator believes that thousands of absentee ballots
that should have been counted were not, because counties used different
counting standards, according to Minnesota Public Radio.

After a statewide recount and seven-week trial, Franken
stands 312 votes ahead of Coleman. He gained more votes from the latest
election challenge than Coleman, who brought the legal action.

The judges ruled that Coleman failed to prove that mistakes
or irregularities in the treatment of absentee ballots would have altered the
outcome of the election.

Ginsberg said the campaign will probably not file its appeal
before next week.

“We’re reviewing a 65-page opinion, and I think we’ll
take time to be sure we review it and frame the issues correctly before we file
the notice,” Ginsberg said, according to MPR.

In its order, the judicial panel dismissed two attempts by
Coleman to subtract votes from Franken over allegations of mishandled ballots
in Minneapolis.

“The overwhelming weight of the evidence indicates that
the November 4, 2008, election was conducted fairly, impartially and
accurately,” the judges wrote. “There is no evidence of a systematic
problem of disenfranchisement in the state’s election system, including in its
absentee-balloting procedures.”

The judges also rejected Coleman’s argument that a state
board improperly made up for a packet of ballots lost between the election and
the recount. His lawyers contended that the ballots’ disappearance rendered
them invalid and that Coleman was entitled to review all ballots as part of the
recount.

Coleman sued under a state law that required the three
judges to determine which candidate got the most votes and is therefore
entitled to an election certificate. But that is now on hold pending an appeal.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty has said he would not certify a winner
until all legal challenges are exhausted – a process that could continue
indefinitely.

Coleman can also initiate a new action on a federal level.
Either side can appeal an eventual state Supreme Court decision to the U.S.
Supreme Court or throw the disputed election before the U.S. Senate, which can
judge the qualifications of its members.

Franken, the former “Saturday Night Live” comic
turned radio host, virtually deadlocked with Coleman on Election Night with
some 2.9 million ballots cast, due in part to the strong showing of a
third-party candidate.

Coleman led by about 700 votes before routine
double-checking of figures trimmed his edge to 215 votes heading into the hand
recount. By the recount’s end in January, Franken had pulled ahead by 225
votes.

“It’s time that Minnesota like every other state have
two” senators, Franken said Monday outside his Minneapolis townhouse.
“I would call on Senator Coleman to allow me to get to work for the people
of Minnesota as soon as possible.”

One person who would appreciate some more help in the Senate
is Minnesota’s other senator, Democrat Amy Klobuchar.

“I keep hoping that it will end,” Klobuchar told
the New York Times.

“With only one senator to inundate with advice, to seek
help from, or to complain about, six times as many people are calling Ms.
Klobuchar’s offices than before the election,” the Times reported. “A
new telephone system was installed in her Washington office so calls could be
routed to more staff members, not just to the front desk, where the ringing
never seemed to stop.”

The contest, however, is far from over. It could be months
before the U.S. Senate knows if Democrats will control a crucial 59th seat in
the body, strengthening their chances of putting together a controlling 60-vote
bloc to eliminate the chance for a GOP filibuster.

Some experts have said it could be the end of this summer
before the issue is resolved, Reuters reported.