- The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled for Al Franken today, in the long-running Minnesota Senate race. Franken is shown with his wife, Franni, at a Jan. 11 rally in support of Israel at the Sabes JCC in St. Louis Park. (Photo: Mordecai Specktor)
Nearly eight months after the 2008 elections, the Minnesota Supreme Court issued a ruling in Minnesota’s contested U.S. Senate election, which upholds Al Franken’s razor-thin major of victory, and apparently clears the way for him to take the vacant Senate seat in Washington, D.C.
The court decision, which rejected former Republican Sen. Norm Coleman’s contention that local election officials and a lower court wrongly denied him victory in the Senate race, now moves the matter to the office of Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.
At the end of their 32-page decision, five Supreme Court justices “affirm the decision of the trial court that Al Franken received the highest number of votes legally cast and is entitled under Minn. 32Â Stat. Â§ 204C.40 (2008) to receive the certificate of election as United States Senator from the State of Minnesota.”
The state’s high court, “In the Matter of the Contest of GeneralÂ Election held on November 4, 2008, forÂ the purpose of electing a United StatesÂ Senator from the State of Minnesota,” found:
1. Appellants did not establish that, by requiring proof that statutory absentee voting standards were satisfied before counting a rejected absentee ballot, the trial court”Ÿs decision constituted a post-election change in standards that violates substantive due process.
2. Appellants did not prove that either the trial court or local election officials violated the constitutional guarantee of equal protection.
3. The trial court did not abuse its discretion when it excluded additional evidence.
4. Inspection of ballots under Minn. Stat.Â Â§Â 209.06 (2008) is available only on a showing that the requesting party cannot properly be prepared for trial without an inspection. Because appellants made no such showing here, the trial court did not err in denying inspection.
5. The trial court did not err when it included in the final election tally the election day returns of a precinct in which some ballots were lost before the manual recount.
Both Coleman and Franken were scheduled to hold press conferences on Tuesday afternoon.
Noah Kunin, reporter for the Uptake.org, during a phone call to the Web site’s live stream, said that he was ejected from the press conference to be held in Coleman’s backyard.
— Mordecai Specktor
Updates / 6.30.09
Norm Coleman has conceded the Senate race to Al Franken. “The Court has spoken,” the former senator told reporters after he read a brief statement at his home in St. Paul’s Crocus Hill neighborhood.
Here is Coleman’s statement:
“Ours is a government of laws, not men and women.Â The Supreme Court of Minnesota has spoken and I respect its decision and will abide by the result.Â It’s time for Minnesota to come together under the leaders it has chosen and move forward. I join all Minnesotans in congratulating our newest United States Senator – Al Franken.“Just a few last words about my legal challenge.Â Sure, I wanted to win.Â Not just for myself but for my wonderful supporters and the important values I have always fought for. Â I also thought it was important to stand up for enfranchising thousands of Minnesotans whose votes weren’t counted like the others were.Â After all, issues and politicians come and go, but voting is fundamental.
“It is the essence of democracy so I knew we needed to do everything we could to get it right.
“I am forever grateful and humbled by the people of Minnesota who have given me the honor to represent them — and even more grateful for their wisdom, courage, patience and understanding over these past several months.
“The path that I take in the future is not nearly as important today as the path that we must now all travel on together — to strengthen our state and our nation.
“I have never believed that my service is irreplaceable.Â We have reached the point where further litigation damages the unity of our state, which is also fundamental.Â In these tough times, we all need to focus on the future.Â And the future today is we have a new United States Senator.
“I congratulate Al Franken and his victory in this election.Â He now enjoys the advantage that our Congressional Delegation has over the other 525 people on Capitol Hill: he represents Minnesota.
“I know the great ideas, the amazing work ethic and the historic ability to come together to get things done in this state will help him greatly, as it has me.
“Speaking of which, I think we all should take a moment to thank Amy Klobuchar and her staff.Â They have done a great job of carrying the burden of two Senators these last six months.Â She is an extraordinary public servant.
“I don’t reach this point with any big regrets.Â I ran the campaign I wanted.Â I conducted the legal challenge I wanted.Â And I have always believed you do the best you can and leave the results up to a higher authority.Â I’m at peace with that.Â As to my future plans, that’s a subject for another day.
“We live in a great country and a great state.Â We can all have confidence that by some path we don’t yet know – one which we can all come together to lay out – we will arrive at the better future we all seek.
“Thank you and may God bless Minnesota and America.”
President Barack Obama issued a statement today on the Minnesota Supreme Court’s decision:
“I look forward to working with Senator-Elect Franken to build a new foundation for growth and prosperity by lowering health care costs and investing in the kind of clean energy jobs and industries that will help America lead in the 21st century.”