Franken Wants State Officials to Seat Him Provisionally

Posted January 12, 2009 at 12:21pm

Comedian Al Franken’s (D) recount campaign is asking state officials to sign off on his election so he can be seated as Minnesota’s junior Senator — at least provisionally.

In a letter sent Monday to Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) and Secretary of State Mark Ritchie (D), a Franken recount attorney argues that Minnesota law does not prevent them from certifying the election even though former Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) has contested the results in court.

The state canvassing board reported last week that Franken led Coleman by 225 votes in the mandated statewide recount and appeared to be the winner. In accordance with Minnesota election law, Coleman’s campaign contested the results last week based on what it said were inconsistencies in the recount that gave Franken the lead. A three-judge panel is expected to begin a trial in the coming weeks.

“If there has been a recount, it is time to certify and at least provisionally seat the declared winner, subject to the result of the contest,” Franken recount attorney David Lillehaug writes.

Also in the letter, Lillehaug refers to “Senator-elect Al Franken” and “former Senator Norm Coleman.”

Franken recount attorney Marc Elias told reporters Monday that the premise of the letter was not to preempt Coleman’s challenge, but rather ensure the state has two Senators while the contest plays out in court.

“Our position is that Minnesota ought to have two Senators, pending the resolution of a contest,” Elias said. “That is, in fact, quite typical.”

Elias also said he did not have any assurances from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) office that the Senate would seat Franken. He also said he was not sure whether the campaign would follow with any kind of formal legal action if Pawlenty or Ritchie ignored its letter.

“We’re going to start with this letter and have confidence that the secretary of State and the governor will do the right thing and sign the certificate,” Elias said.