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Franken To Be Certified Winner, But Minnesota Senate Battle Not Over

(AP Photo/Jim Mone)
This afternoon, the Minnesota state Canvassing Board is set to certify recount results showing Democrat Al Franken with 225 more votes than incumbent Republican Norm Coleman.

Coleman isn't exactly calling Franken to congratulate him on a victory, however: His campaign's lawyers have seven days to file suit challenging the results, and they have suggested they will do so. According to the Star Tribune, the ensuing court battle could "leave the seat vacant for weeks."

The Coleman camp's hopes rest on two arguments: One, that a small number of ballots were counted twice in the recount, and two, that 650 improperly rejected ballots were never forwarded to local officials to be counted.*

As the Associated Press reports, New York Sen. Charles Schumer has indicated he favors seating Franken soon.

"While there are still possible legal issues that will run their course, there is no longer any doubt who will be the next Senator from Minnesota," he said. "With the Senate set to begin meeting on Tuesday to address the important issues facing the nation, it is crucial that Minnesota's seat not remain empty, and I hope this process will resolve itself as soon as possible."

But Republicans are signaling that they will fight efforts to seat the former comedian. On CNN this morning, National Republican Senatorial Committee chair Sen. John Cornyn said there is a "likelihood" of a filibuster over Franken being seated (even provisionally), and the AP quotes Cornyn criticizing Schumer for "pre-judging the outcome while litigation is still pending."

Franken's lead rose from the double digits to the current 225 votes on Saturday, when 933 wrongly rejected absentee ballots were counted. There were almost 3 million votes cast in an race.

Republicans are already framing the Coleman/Franken fight as an example of Democrats acting improperly. The Republican National Committee late last night sent an editorial to reporters from the conservative Wall Street Journal editorial page alleging "Funny Business in Minnesota."

"Thanks to the machinations of Democratic Secretary of State Mark Ritchie and a meek state Canvassing Board, Mr. Franken may emerge as an illegitimate victor," the WSJ wrote – a sentiment likely to be echoed by Republicans in the coming days.

*UPDATE: The Minnesota Supreme Court has rejected the Coleman camp's request to count the roughly 650 rejected absentee ballots upon which it has pinned its hopes.

But that doesn't mean Coleman is giving up – his campaign quickly sent out a statement vowing to contest the results.

"Given our campaign's unwavering commitment to ensuring that the vote of no Minnesotan is disenfranchised, today's ruling by the Minnesota Supreme Court is both disappointing and disheartening," Coleman for Senate Counsel Fritz Knaak said. "The fact that the Franken campaign now rejects the notion of every valid vote being counted so they can attempt to declare victory on the basis of a broken process, and an artificial lead built on double counting of votes should concern all Minnesotans. Today's ruling, which effectively disregards the votes of hundreds of Minnesotans, ensures that an election contest is now inevitable."

As the AP notes, the Supreme Court left the door wide open for such a move – the ruling noted that Coleman's motion to have the ballots counted "was among issues better handled in a post-recount lawsuit."

UPDATE #2: And it's official: Around 3:30 PM Eastern Time, the board certified Franken as the winner of the recount.

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