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Scott Wente, Published January 12 2009

Pawlenty, Ritchie rebuff Franken's bid to obtain election certificate

ST. PAUL – Al Franken’s campaign wants him granted an election certificate even as Minnesota’s U.S. Senate results are challenged in court. That certificate could allow him to be seated in the Senate.

The Franken campaign sent a letter today to Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Secretary of State Mark Ritchie asking for their signatures on an election certificate by the end of the day.

In separate statements, Pawlenty and Ritchie said they cannot do that.

The state Canvassing Board last week certified results in the Senate recount. Franken emerged from the recount with 225 more votes than Republican Norm Coleman. State law says an election certificate cannot be issued until seven days after the election results are certified. If the results are contested in court, an election certificate cannot be issued until after the lawsuit plays out, according to state law.

Pawlenty said he must follow state law and that the statute is clear.

“I am prohibited from issuing a certificate of election until the election contest in the courts has been resolved,” he said in a statement.

Ritchie, a Democrat, said even if Pawlenty issued an election certificate prior to the end of the court challenges, he would not sign it.

Franken attorney Marc Elias said the campaign believes that under federal law and the U.S. Constitution, the governor and secretary of state are obligated to issue an election certificate. The court challenge still can go forward, he said.

“Minnesota ought to have two senators pending the resolution of a contest,” Elias said.

Elias said the campaign would not rule out taking the matter to the Minnesota Supreme Court if Franken is not given an election certificate.