[Updated several times at end of article...]
The Minnesota Supreme Court has just ruled that Democrat Al Franken will be the state's next U.S. Senator, bringing to a close the months-long contest against former Republican Sen. Norm Coleman.
The decision was a unanimous 5 to 0 ruling, finding that Franken was "entitled" to be certified by the state's Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty and its Democratic Secretary of State Mark Ritchie.
Pawlenty has recently said he would sign the certification for Franken, if ordered to do so by the MN Supremes. The state requires a signature for certification from both the Governor and the Sec. of State before Congress members may be seated. State law also allows for all election contests to be settled in the state before certification is signed.
Franken's seating would give Democrats a theoretical 60-seat, filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, following Arlen Specter's recent move to the Democratic party.
Franken, an author, former radio talk-show host, and comedian, was found, by a three-judge, tri-partisan election contest panel to have won the election by 312 votes following an historic, painstakingly careful hand count of nearly 3 million paper ballots cast in last November's election. Coleman may now appeal the decisions of the state canvassing board, the three-judge election contest panel, and the unanimous decision of the state Supreme Court to the U.S. Supreme Court...
UPDATE: Washington Post notes "a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, said the earliest Franken would be seated is next week because the Senate is out of session for the July 4 holiday." Reid's spokesman also reported that the court's decision "stopped short of explicitly ordering the governor to sign the document, saying only that Franken was 'entitled' to it."
FURTHER UPDATE: The decision is now posted here [PDF] and finds: ""Al Franken received the highest number of votes legally cast and is entitled under Minn. Stat. § 204C.40 (2008) to receive the certificate of election as United States Senator from the State of Minnesota."
Working on a piece for UK's Guardian about all of this. But, bottom line: hand-marked paper ballots are the gold standard. Counting them by hand, publicly, in front of everyone, is what makes this election different from FL 2000, OH 2004, San Diego 2006, Iran 2009, etc. Transparency is the key. And the result is an election that is very difficult, for all but the most insane and/or disingenuous, to dispute when all is said and done. The voters of Minnesota, and its Sec. of State Mark Ritchie, are to be applauded for their superb, public, transparently handled election. Nice to see the voters win one for a change!
[That piece for the Guardian is now posted here: "Franken laughs last: The long-running battle for Minnesota's Senate seat is finally over. Democracy – and Al Franken – won fair and square"]
LATE UPDATE: COLEMAN CONCEDES! It's finally over....
“The Supreme Court of Minnesota has spoken, and I respect its decision and will abide by the result,” Coleman said. “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.”
Franken, in remarks outside his Minneapolis home about an hour after Coleman’s concession, said he expected to be seated early next week.
The BRAD BLOG has been covering virtually ever notable beat in this contest since last November. If you'd like to review our coverage over the past nearly eight months, click here for a trip back through the time-machine...