The Minnesota Supreme Court should order the state's governor, Republican Tim Pawlenty, to sign Democrat Al Franken's certificate of election as soon as it reviews former Sen. Norm Coleman's appeal, Franken's attorneys say.
On Monday, the Franken team met the deadline to file a response to claims by Coleman's attorneys that different standards were used at different points in the election contest regarding which absentee ballots should be counted. Coleman wants approximately 4,900 more ballots included.
Franken's lead attorney Marc Elias concedes that there were "slight variations" in the ways ballots were processed by different counties, but not enough he says to raise constitutional issues of equal protection under the law.
"The different procedures were consistent with the different resources, personnel, and technology available to each county and city," the Franken legal brief stated.
A three-judge panel ruled April 13 that Franken had won the election by 315 votes. Elias on Monday dismissed Coleman's case as inconsistent.
"They both want to count and uncount votes. Due process requires neither," Elias said on a conference call.
The move to ask the state's Supreme Court to direct Pawlenty to make Franken's election official – which of course assumes the state Supreme Court upholds prior decisions favoring Franken – ups the ante sharply in the ongoing legal battle over who will be Minnesota's next senator.
Pawlenty has walked a fine line in comments regarding when he would sign that certificate, which is required by the U.S. Senate before it will seat a new member.
Elias says Franken wants the state's highest court to direct the governor's action "so that Gov. Pawlenty will not have to worry about which way to turn here."
Elias also addressed a recent statement by RNC Chairman Michael Steele. Steele was asked whether Coleman should concede if the Minnesota Supreme Court declares Franken the winner.
"No, hell no," Steele told National Journal's Hotline On Call. "Whatever the outcome, it's going to get bumped to the next level. This does not end until there's a final ruling that speaks to whether or not those votes that have not been counted should be counted. And Norm Coleman will not, will not jump out of this race before that."
The response from Elias: "This case is right now before the Minnesota Supreme Court. It's going to be decided by the Minnesota courts, and at the conclusion of the state process Al Franken will be entitled to an election certificate, and will receive it, and will then be seated the next senator from Minnesota.
"Michael Steele has no doubt a number of things he needs to focus on involving the running of the Republican National Committee, and I will leave him to that. I do not follow closely what he has to say about the law in Minnesota," he said.
The Franken team has waived its right to seek court costs from Coleman following the appeal, in an effort to expedite the outcome. It is also asking the state's Supreme Court to set aside the usual 10-day waiting period following a ruling, which is intended to allow time for a rehearing request to be filed with the court.
Instead, Franken's brief asks the Court to immediately order Pawlenty to perform his "ministerial duty" to sign the election certificate, so that Minnesotans can obtain their second representative in the Senate.
Coleman's legal team has until Friday to file its response to the counter-arguments that the Franken team raised Monday. It did not immediately respond Monday afternoon to a Newsmax request for its comment on the Franken team's assertions.
Oral arguments in the case are expected to begin June 1.
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