A new Minnesota Supreme Court ruling virtually rules out any chance that the outcome of Minnesota’s bitterly contested U.S. Senate race will be decided by Jan. 6 when the new Congress convenes to seat its members.
The state Supreme Court granted an extension Wednesday in the deadline for the review of some 1,600 improperly rejected absentee ballots. The campaigns of incumbent GOP Sen. Norm Coleman, Democratic challenger Al Franken, and local election officials all supported the extension.
Previously, the court ordered local officials to tally the absentee ballots and forward them to state officials by Dec. 31. That schedule theoretically allowed enough time for ballots to be counted, challenges to be considered, and a winner certified by the Jan. 6 deadline. The new schedule does not.
The court’s new deadline schedule now calls for local officials to deliver unopened absentee ballots to the secretary of state’s office by Jan.2, which then has until Jan. 4 to count them.
The two candidates would then file any challenges to the allocation of those ballots, and the Canvassing Board would meet to review those ballot challenges.
Franken currently has an unofficial lead in the recount of 47 votes.
Also Wednesday, a representative for Minnesota GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty stated that by law the governor only has authority to appoint a permanent, rather than temporary, Senate replacement. It is unlikely therefore that Pawlenty will make an interim appointment, if a winner has not been certified when the new Senate convenes, sources say.
The Senate has the Constitutional authority to vote whether to accept a new, incoming member, even after a candidate has been certified a winner.
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