Franken files arguments in Senate recount trial

Democrat Al Franken's attorneys asked the state Supreme Court Monday to order Gov. Tim Pawlenty to sign an election certificate once the court rules on Republican Norm Coleman's appeal.

Franken's lawyers made that request in paperwork they filed in response to Coleman's appeal. Coleman wants the Supreme Court to overturn a lower court ruling that declared Franken the winner in the state's long-running U.S. Senate race.

Franken's attorneys asked the justices to order DFL Secretary of State Mark Ritchie and Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty to sign the election certificate once the state Supreme Court rules. Ritchie has said he'll sign the certificate when the court decides the case but the governor has hedged. Pawlenty has questioned whether he's required to sign the certificate if the loser goes on to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court or files another election lawsuit in federal court.

Franken attorney Marc Elias said his side asked the state Supreme Court to provide some clarity "...so that Gov. Pawlenty will not have to worry about which way to turn here. He's indicated that he'll follow the court's order so we've asked the court to make it plain and clear so that there won't be any confusion for the governor."

Franken's lawyers made the request in their response to Coleman's written arguments he filed about two weeks ago. Coleman's lawyers contend the three-judge panel didn't open and count enough rejected absentee ballots because it applied a standard that was too strict. Franken's attorneys respond that the panel couldn't ignore the law; it's the Legislature that set the strict standard for absentee voting. Franken's attorneys say that if Coleman has a problem with the standards the proper forum is the Legislature, not the courts.

Coleman had also argued that some counties violated the constitutional guarantee of equal protection under the law when they rejected some absentee ballots when other counties accepted and counted similar ballots.

Franken's attorneys argue that these were "minor variations" in elections and if they were unconstitutional, then it would be virtually impossible for a state to conduct an election at the precinct level.

Coleman's lawyers must file their written response to Franken's brief by this Friday. Then, three weeks from today, Minnesota's Supreme Court will hold oral arguments. The justices have not said when they will issue a ruling in the case.

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