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Published:April 15th, 2009 16:35 EST
Former SNL Writer Wins Minnesota's Senate Race

Former SNL Writer Wins Minnesota's Senate Race

By Christopher HIllenbrand

After a statewide recount and a seven-week trial, Al Franken has been declared the winner in the 2008 Senate race by a Minnesota judicial panel. His Republican opponent Norm Coleman is in the process of appealing the court`s decision.

The appeal has a statute of limitations of ten days, meaning Coleman has a little over a week to file his petition. If filed, the appeal could prolong the election of Minnesota`s second senator for at least another few weeks.

In the recount that proceeded from a political toss-up between the candidates, Franken has a 312 vote advantage over his running mate. Coleman issued the petition to have the recount, which only favored Franken who gained the clear lead in the polls.

Minnesota state law mandates that in an official recount, three judges must reach a unanimous decision over who received the most votes. An election certificate is then awarded to the winner, which in this instance is withheld pending Coleman`s appeal.

Judges overseeing the motion stated: "The overwhelming weight of the evidence indicates that the November 4, 2008, election was conducted fairly, impartially and accurately. There is no evidence of a systematic problem of disenfranchisement in the state`s election system, including in its absentee-balloting procedures."

The judges on the panel overruled two tries by the Republican in which he argued that certain votes for Franken should`ve be discounted over speculations that ballots were mistreated by poll workers in Minneapolis.

The judicial panel also dismissed Coleman`s dispute alleging that a state committee errantly made up for a stack of ballots that were lost during the election.

Coleman`s attorneys argued that the missing ballots should be ruled "invalid" and that Coleman has the right to check all the ballots included in the recount. In their filing, his lawyers affirmed that dozens of ballots were counted twice when the new optical ballot-scanning machines couldn`t read the original ballots. Though they claimed that it was feasible both the originals and copies were counted, Coleman and his legal team lost their case.

With the court`s decision, it appears the Republican who beat former Vice President Walter Mondale by the slimmest of margins in the 2002 Senate race will be seeing his last days in Congress this election term.

And Coleman never expected that a political outsider would abdicate him from his seat.

Al Franken, 57, was already a comedy writer, best-selling author, and the host of a nationally syndicated radio show before his bid for being nominated by the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party in Minnesota. Going into Election Night, Franken and Coleman were in a dead heat because of the emergence of a third-party candidate, leading to a necessary recount in the state. Coleman was up 700 votes over Franken before the state`s review of the ballots conceded almost 500 votes from the Republican`s lead. When the recounted concluded in early January, Franken gained ground on his opponent by 225 votes.

Coleman began contending the recount`s results in January and the appeal might stretch the race`s outcome to May and perhaps June.

Coleman and his legal team are basing their appeal on breaches of the constitutional right of equal protection, and claimed that counties` practices in how to handle absentee ballots widely varied, and therefore should be taken into consideration.

Coleman may promulgate a motion to the Federal system should the state`s judgment not seem constitutional. Either Franken or Coleman can then appeal the state`s Supreme Court`s ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court or take the case to the U.S. Senate, which would then rule on the state court`s decision.

But Franken`s lawyers cite that the democratic election process isn`t exact and that Coleman`s argument over differing ballot-counting policies in the counties isn`t valid considering all counties in Minnesota have the same political guidelines by which they abide.