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July 2, 09

NEWS / Final Unresolved 2008 U.S. Election Contest Settled Democrat Al Franken will become Minnesota’s n

By Michelle Austein Brooks
Staff Writer

Washington Nearly eight months later, the final race in the 2008 U.S. elections is complete. After months of recounts and legal challenges, the Minnesota Supreme Court determined June 30 that Democrat Al Franken is the winner of an extremely close Senate contest.

In the United States, there are often races deemed too close to call on Election Day, meaning no winner is projected because the number of votes separating the two candidates is too slim to accurately predict who will win once every vote is counted and the results certified by the appropriate state authorities. But rarely has a races outcome taken this long to determine.

Each state establishes its own procedures for counting votes. Typically, votes cast at polling places can be tabulated fairly quickly, while mailed-in absentee ballots take more time to verify and count. Each state has its own laws governing the manner in which votes are cast, counted and, if necessary, recounted. Some states, like Minnesota, automatically require votes to be recounted in races where the number of votes separating the two candidates falls below a certain percentage of the total number of votes cast.

Among the 2.9 million ballots counted in the Minnesota race, the initial Election Day count found Republican incumbent Norm Coleman ahead by about 200 votes. A weekslong hand recount of all the ballots determined that Franken actually had 225 more votes than Coleman. Coleman filed a lawsuit, arguing that some absentee ballots had been improperly counted. Because Minnesota law prevents the state from certifying the results during a lawsuit, the Senate seat remained vacant during the legal proceedings.

Over the last eight months, as the nation has watched this all unfold in this state, Minnesotans have earned the right to take pride in the transparency and the thoroughness of our process and in the integrity of our election officials, said Franken, a comedian-turned-politician known to Americans for his performances on the Saturday Night Live television show.

Speaking to Minnesota citizens following the courts unanimous ruling, Franken said that no matter who they voted for, Im ready to work for all of you and Im committed to being a voice for all Minnesotans in the U.S. Senate.

Coleman conceded the race and congratulated Franken. Saying he respects the courts decision, Its time for Minnesotans to come together under the leaders it has chosen and move forward.


Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, a Republican, has certified the election results, clearing the way for Franken to be sworn in as a senator next week. I am glad there is a decision. We need two senators; hopefully this will bring the state together, Pawlenty said.

In a statement, President Obama said, I look forward to working with Senator-elect Franken to build a new foundation for growth and prosperity by lowering health care costs and investing in the kind of clean energy jobs and industries that will help America lead in the 21st century.

Frankens arrival in the Senate will mean Democrats and Democratic-leaning Independents will hold 60 of the 100 Senate seats. Holding 60 seats is important because 60 votes are needed to end a filibuster a parliamentary procedure that allows senators to continue a debate indefinitely and block or delay a vote on a measure or nomination.

Filibusters have been used effectively throughout U.S. history. It was a tactic frequently used by Southern senators seeking to block civil rights legislation in the 1960s. More recently, filibusters have been used a record number of times in the 110th Congress, effectively preventing the Senate from holding votes on certain issues.

The term filibuster, coined from the Dutch word for pirate, came into use in the 1850s. But the practice of filibustering to keep the legislative body from voting on a bill predates this term. In 1917, senators adopted a rule allowing debate to end with a two-thirds majority vote. This device, called cloture, can halt filibusters, but it was used rarely because it was so difficult to gain the support of that many senators. In 1975, the Senate reduced the number of votes needed for cloture to three-fifths (60).

But even with 60 senators, this does not mean the party always will be able to prevent filibusters. Senators hold a wide range of political views, and not all party members will favor cloture on the same issues.



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