MNSC: Election Certificate Must Wait

The Minnesota Supreme Court finally ruled on the January 13th petition by Al Franken to force the Governor of Minnesota and the SOS to issue an election certificate based upon the recount result. The filing is 24 pages long and is text-searchable. I've just posted the body of the ruling along with the first and last paragraphs of the opinion:

Filed: March 6, 2009

SYLLABUS

1. Minnesota Statutes § 204C.40, subd. 2 (2008), which provides that a certificate of election cannot be issued until the state courts have finally decided an election contest pending under chapter 209, applies to an election for the United States Senate.

2. There is no federal statutory mandate that a state issue a certificate of election by the date designated by Congress for commencement of newly-elected Senators' terms, and because the Senate has authority under U.S. Const. art. I, 7sect; 5, to seat a Senator without a state-issued certificate of election, application of Minn. Stat. § 204C.40, subd. 2, to an election for the Senate does not usurp the Senate's authority and does not conflict with federal law.

Petition denied.

OPINION

PER CURIAM.

This matter is before our court on a petition of Al Franken brought under Minn. Stat. § 204B.44 (2008). The petition seeks an order requiring respondents, Governor Timothy Pawlenty and Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, to promptly prepare and countersign a certificate of election and deliver the certificate to the Secretary of the United States Senate, without awaiting the conclusion of an election contest pending in state district court under Minn. Stat. ch. 209 (2008). Because we conclude that neither state nor federal law requires issuance of a certificate of election before the election contest is completed, we deny the petition.

...

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. And because the Senate has authority to seat a Senator without a state-issued certificate of election, application of the contest tolling provision in Minn. Stat. § 204C.40, subd. 2, to an election for the United States Senate does not usurp the Senate's power and does not conflict with federal law, either statutory or constitutional.

Petition denied.

Source: Supreme Court Order on Al Franken's Petition for Order to Issue Certificate of Election via MNCourts.gov [PDF]

Franken will have to wait until after the election contest, assuming he does eventually win, to assume his seat in the US Senate. It's also interesting to note that Franken's seating is not contingent upon the certificate from the State of Minnesota. The US Constitution describes the grounds under which an individual shall be admitted to the Senate:

[Article 1] Section 5. Each House shall be the judge of the elections, returns and qualifications of its own members, and a majority of each shall constitute a quorum to do business; but a smaller number may adjourn from day to day, and may be authorized to compel the attendance of absent members, in such manner, and under such penalties as each House may provide.

Source: US Constitution via Law.Cornell.edu

If the Senate wanted to seat Al Franken, they could. Harry Reid (D), the Senate Majority Leader, has clearly demonstrated that a certificate is essentially required to seat a Senator; both based upon the Roland Burris situation and Reid's own inability to follow through on numerous vows to seat Al Franken.

Minnesota will be without a second US Senator, at least, until the Election Contest Court declares a victor.

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