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Good News! Senate May Decide Whether to Seat Coleman or Franken

2:37 PM, Nov 7, 2008 • By BRIAN FAUGHNAN
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The Associated Press previews a very disturbing possible outcome to the dispute over the Minnesota Senate race between Norm Coleman and Al Franken:

The Minnesota election law envisions Senate involvement.

Once a result is contested in district court - which must come within a week of the post-recount canvass - the chief justice of the state Supreme Court assigns three judges to hear it. The current chief, Eric Magnuson, is an appointee of Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

Either party can request to inspect the ballots, and three-member inspection teams are appointed. Each party picks one, and the third is chosen by the two or appointed by a judge.

Within 20 days of the initial filing, a trial is held. The court decides who received the most votes and is entitled to the certificate of election. The court can study evidence of election irregularities, but it can't issue findings or conclusions.

‘A shared understanding of the ground rules'

Once all appeals are exhausted, either party can ask that the information be forwarded to the presiding Senate officer.

From there, it's up to the Senate to decide how to proceed.

"Ultimately the Constitution gives the Senate the sole power to determine the qualifications of its members," Ritchie said. "In the end, there is no appeal if the Senate makes the decision."

The way that this election is being handled right now leads to doubts over the fairness of the process. And those doubts are only exacerbated by the assertion of Al Franken's lawyer that mistakes were made in the count -- before that count was even concluded. With Senate Democrats still hoping to reach 60 votes and the filbuster-proof majority it brings, there will be a strong temptation for Senate Democrats and the Acorn-backed Minnesota Secretary of State to weigh this one with a finger on the scale.