Minnesota: Franken Bid to Be Seated Provisionally Rejected

Posted January 12, 2009 at 6:01pm

Comedian Al Franken’s (D) request to state officials to sign off on his election so he can be provisionally seated in the Senate was rejected on Monday.

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

Also in the letter, Lillehaug referred 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 pre-empt 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.”

But according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, both Pawlenty and Ritchie denied Franken’s request.

“Minnesota law is very clear on when a certificate of election can be issued,” Ritchie told the newspaper in a statement. “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.”