Minnesota Supreme Court Rebuffs Franken

            The Minnesota Supreme Court has rejected Al Franken’s petition to direct the Governor and Secretary of State to issue an election certificate prior to resolution of the election contest for U.S. Senate.  First, the court found that “[t]he plain language of [the Minnesota statute] provides that no election certificate can be issued in this Senate race until the state courts have finally decided the election contest.”   

The court then turned to Franken’s argument that the Minnesota law in this regard conflicted with the federal constitution, particularly the Senate’s authority to judge its own elections.  As I have previously explained, however, this argument makes no sense because the Senate clearly has the authority to seat Franken, or his opponent for that matter, regardless of whether a certificate has issued.  The Minnesota court made this same point, noting that “if the Senate believes delay in seating the second Senator from Minnesota adversely affects the Senate, it has the authority to remedy the situation and needs no certificate of election from the Governor to do so.” 

Finally, the court dealt with Franken’s contention that “the state should not put the Senate in the position of abrogating its own rules in order to provide Minnesota with the full and timely representation that the Constitution and federal statutes contemplate.”  The court also rejected this argument, holding essentially that accommodating the Senate’s rules as a matter of comity was not a function of the court when the Minnesota legislature had made a different policy choice.


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