At the moment Minnesota does not have two Senators, and the Al Franken campaign today sent a letter to Governor Tim Pawlenty asking him to sign a certificate of election for Franken to rectify that.
Franken Attorney Marc Elias notes that the seven day waiting period after the canvassing board certification has passed and cited federal laws and Minnesota Supreme Court rulings he said supported the Governor signing the certificate now instead of waiting for the outcome of an election challenge from former Senator Norm Coleman.
Governor Pawlenty indicated immediately he would not sign the election certificate. According to the Minnesota Independent, Pawlenty said “I have a duty to follow state law and our statutes are clear on this issue…I am prohibited from issuing a certificate of election until the election contest in the courts has been resolved.”
The election certificate requires two signatures. One from the Governor and one from Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie. Ritchie today indicated that he is not going to sign the certificate saying “Minnesota law is very clear on when a certificate of election can be issued. Neither the governor nor I may sign a certificate of election in the U.S. Senate race until all election contests have reached a final determination. Even if the governor issues a certificate of election prior to the conclusion of the contest phase, I will not sign it.”
There is also some question as to whether such a certificate could even be signed today. Minnesota state law requires it to be signed “after” seven days. However, the state’s legal definition of time would mean the seven-day clock started running on January 6th, the day after the State Canvassing Board certified the vote totals. That would mean today is the 7th day and the certificate could not be signed until tomorrow. The Franken campaign’s letter to the Governor also erroniously indicated the State Canvassing Board certified totals on January 3rd. The absentee ballots were counted on January 3rd, but the totals were not certified until January 5th.
Elias called the Coleman election challenge which was filed last week “riddled with errors” “vague” and full of “innuendo”. Among other things, the suit says the canvassing board opened and counted absentee ballots that the Coleman campaign had objected to and hundreds of other absentee ballots should also be included in the totals.
The Franken campaign says the Governor signing the election certificate would not make the election contest moot and it would still go ahead. Elias said the Franken campaign has filed a response to the contest that indicates other ballots should be counted including some that were rejected because the dates on the voter and the witnesses signatures did not match.
Elias said there were close to 800 ballots that should have been counted. Elias also said that “several dozen” voters are filing a lawsuit asking that their ballots be counted.