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State high court rejects Franken bid for election certificate

ST. PAUL - The Minnesota Supreme Court today rejected Al Franken's demand to immediately become a U.S. senator.

In January, Franken asked the high court to order Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Secretary of State Mark Ritchie to sign an election certificate so he could take office, even while a lawsuit by Norm Coleman was pending. They would not sign a certificate.

Supreme Court justices today said there is no legal authority for them to order that a certificate be signed.

"We conclude that there is no federal statutory mandate that a state issue a certificate of election by the date designated by Congress for the commencement of newly elected senators' terms," the court wrote in an opinion released this afternoon. "And because the Senate has authority to seat a senator without a state-issued certificate of election, application of ... (a state law) does not usurp the Senate's power and does not conflict with federal law, either statutory or constitutional."

The result of the opinion is that the state remains represented only by Amy Klobuchar in the U.S. Senate. The other seat apparently will remain open until a trial - not connected to the high court ruling - is concluded.

In that trial, Coleman is challenging Franken's 225-vote election victory. Coleman claims there are absentee ballots that were not counted that could give him the victory.

Franken asked that the court case be thrown out and attorneys for both sides this afternoon are arguing the issue in front of a three-judge panel.

In the election certificate case, Pawlenty and Ritchie refused to sign an election certificate, saying they could not do so until the court case is complete.

The Coleman campaign said the court ruling shows they proved that there were problems with the election.

"We have proven that there are serious issues with the vote count in this election," Coleman attorney Ben Ginsberg said. "There remain thousands of wrongly rejected ballots that must be counted. There are hundreds of votes that have been counted twice."

A Feb. 13 district court ruling opens the door to thousands more ballots being counted, Ginsberg said.

"The court must resolve these potentially fatal problems if the court is to fulfill its obligation to certify the number of 'lawfully cast ballots' for each candidate," the attorney added.