The Coleman/Franken Show Drags On

(CBS/AP)
There are three things you can count on in life: Death, taxes, and the fact that the Minnesota Senate race, much like the typical middle school talent show, will seemingly never end.

The latest development in the nearly-seven-month-long saga comes today, as lawyers for former Senator Norm Coleman ask the Minnesota Supreme Court to overturn Democrat Al Franken's slim victory over his Republican rival.

Here's a brief recap of the situation so far: On November 4th of last year - that's nearly seven months ago - Minnesota voters cast their ballots. The initial results showed a narrow Coleman victory, but the tight outcome triggered an automatic recount - after which Franken had a narrow lead.

Then came months of legal wrangling, which culminated in a judicial panel declaring Franken the winner of the election by 312 votes. Coleman appealed that decision, which is why the case now stands before the state Supreme Court.

Coleman favored a quick resolution to the case when he was ahead, and called for Franken to drop out following Election Day for the good of the people of Minnesota. Polls show that the people of Minnesota now want Coleman to give up his effort, though he is showing no signs of doing so. As WCCO points out, the legal back-and-forth has resulted in the longest Senate vacancy in 34 years.

Coleman's team's argument today rests on inconsistencies involving absentee ballots; the Associated Press quotes his lawyer arguing that "twelve thousand citizens who made good-faith efforts to vote were disenfranchised, with a variety of reasons." Judges have reportedly responded skeptically to the argument thus far.

In the unlikely event that Coleman wins, it "could keep his hopes alive and delay a final decision for months," according to the Star-Tribune. If he loses, there will be increasing pressure on Minnesota's elected officials to grant Franken an election certificate so that he can join the Senate. If and when he does, it will mean Democrats have sixty votes in the chamber, a filibuster-proof majority.

Coleman and Franken aren't the only politicians with a lot at stake here. Following the state Supreme Court ruling, Minnesota Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty may be in the awkward position of either siding with Coleman, which would anger Minnesotans sick of the protracted legal battle, or with Franken, which would anger the national Republicans whose support Pawlenty needs if, as rumored, he wants to run for national office.

There is no deadline for the state supreme judges to rule – one former justice told the Tribune that "the impatience of the people just has to be put aside." And Coleman could still appeal to the Supreme Court, though the justices could decline to hear the case.

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