It’s not hard to imagine that if Al Franken maintains his narrow lead after absentee ballots are counted this weekend in the Minnesota Senate race, Senate Democrats may try to seat him before state officials declare a winner. Given the circus surrounding Roland Burris, Democrats may even take advantage of the distraction to seat Franken while media attention is elsewhere.
John Cornyn says it won’t happen without a fight:
In a conference call with reporters, Cornyn said Republican Senators fear that Senate Democratic leaders may try to seat Franken next week even if an official winner has not been declared in the election. But the Texan said Republicans are prepared to launch a filibuster to prevent Franken from being seated until state officials declare a winner and all legal challenges are exhausted.
“There will be no way that people on our side of the aisle will agree to seat any Senator provisionally unless a certificate of election has been signed” and all court cases about the Senate race have been completed, Cornyn said. “Certainly it is the height of arrogance for any political leader in Washington, D.C., to tell the people of Minnesota whose vote should count and whose vote shouldn’t count…”
The State Canvassing Board is expected to count at least 1,300 disputed absentee ballots Saturday, but there are still several unresolved questions and it is highly unlikely that a winner will be declared by the time Congress reconvenes next week. Under state law, the five-member canvassing board must first declare a winner, and a certificate of election must then be signed by the governor, who is a Republican, and the Minnesota secretary of State, who is a Democrat.
But even if a certificate of election is signed, a citizen has the right to challenge the outcome of the election in the courts. Cornyn conceded that it could take weeks or even a month or more before a second Senator is seated from Minnesota. But he noted that other states will not have full representation in the Senate when the 111th Congress opens.
This is something to watch. Once votes are counted, Harry Reid could move quickly.