With additional reporting by Ryan Grim
The Minnesota State Canvassing Board confirmed on Monday that Al Franken has won his Senate election, ending a weeks-long recount process that started with the Democratic challenger facing a roughly 215-vote deficit.
The final tally left Franken with 1,212,431 votes to Sen. Norm Coleman's 1,212,206 votes, a 0.0077 percent margin of victory.
But while the canvassing board's ruling marked a cap to a long and wild election, it did not secure Franken's spot in the United States Senate. Even as state officials were finalizing ballot numbers, Norm Coleman's campaign was making preparations to legally challenge the results.
Aides to the Minnesota Republican insist that part of the recount process was unfairly tilted towards districts more favorable to Democrats, and, in particular, called for the inclusion of 650 more rejected absentee ballots. On Monday, the State Supreme Court ruled against the latter complaint. By then, however, Coleman's lawyers were already hinting at bringing the case to the federal level -- under the argument that it constituted an equal protection issue. The senator will have only seven days to challenge the results: Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Secretary of State Mark Ritchie must co-sign the certification within the week.
Coleman seems likely to pursue this avenue. But it may be too little too late. Aides to Franken note that with today's canvassing board decision the vote tallies are final.
"The canvassing board has officially accepted the election numbers as official," an aide told the Huffington Post. "The margin is not going to change anymore."
That means a Coleman victory will have to come via a court willing to wade into the partisan waters.
Already, preparations were being made in Washington to follow through with the transition of power. At the behest of Senate rules committee officials, Norm Coleman's Senate offices were locked and closed on Monday. Meanwhile, Senate Republicans and Democrats seem poised for a procedural fight over Franken. Democrats, on Monday, said they would try to seat the new senator, even in the face of GOP challenges. But Republican officials said they would preempt such a course of action -- absent a certification signed by Pawlenty, a Republican.
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