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Coleman challenges recount in court

Norm Coleman

ST. PAUL - Norm Coleman will go to the courts in hopes of returning to the U.S. Senate.

Coleman announced this afternoon his campaign will contest the results of the statewide recount that gave him 225 fewer votes than Democrat Al Franken.

"As of today not every valid vote has been counted and some have been counted twice," Coleman said as he was surrounded by dozens of supporters in a packed room across the street from the Capitol building.

Coleman's announcement came a day after the state Canvassing Board approved the recount vote total that gave Franken a narrow margin.

Franken declared victory Monday and called himself "the next senator from Minnesota." The former "Saturday Night Live" comedian acknowledged further legal action was possible, but said he would focus on getting to work for Minnesotans.

State law says an election certificate cannot be issued until seven days after the vote is finalized, during which time a lawsuit challenging the result can be filed. In that case, the winner does not receive an election certificate until after the court challenge plays out.

The new Congress convened today with Minnesota represented by only one senator - Democrat Amy Klobuchar.

Franken took no questions from reporters huddled outside his Minneapolis home on Monday, and his campaign refused to say whether he planned to travel to Washington without an election certificate. Senate Democrats had raised the possibility of provisionally seating Franken, pending the outcome of a possible legal challenge, but later said that would not occur as the new Congress convened today.

The Canvassing Board's action wrapped up a two-month statewide recount with plenty of wrinkles and surprises. Coleman entered the recount leading Franken by more than 200 votes, but that flipped after the hand recount of 2.9 million ballots the counting of improperly rejected absentee ballots.

The official total gave Franken 1,212,431 votes to Coleman's 1,212,206.

Norm Coleman, until last Saturday a U.S. Senator, today read this statement at a St. Paul news conference:

"Our Declaration of Independence states that government 'derives its just powers from the consent of the governed.' Our government of laws is only as just as the elections that determine who make the decisions that affect us all. So we all have responsibility to make sure each vote counts in every election so the purity of democracy in our nation can be preserved and enhanced on our watch.

"On Nov. 4, 2008, nearly 3 million Minnesotans cast their votes for the United States Senate. The vast majority of those votes were clear and validly cast. Obviously, it was an extremely close vote, so Minnesota law required an automatic hand recount.

"I want to express my deep appreciation to all of the election officials and volunteers who helped to make this election successful. I also want to thank the hundreds and hundreds of people who have been involved in this recount process for their work during a busy family time of the year for doing the work to get us to this point in the process.

"But in the wisdom of Minnesota's excellent election law, the local recount actions to date and those of the canvassing board are steps in the process of reaching a clear and unambiguous result all the people can accept as final. But as of today, not every valid vote has been counted and some have been counted twice.

"So today I am announcing that I've instructed my legal team to file an election contest according to Minnesota law. Until these issues are settled, any attempt to seat someone who is not properly certified ignores the law, violates Senate precedent and usurps the will of the people of Minnesota.

"There are several vital issues that must be resolved for the sake of this and future elections. Let me be very specific.

"When double counted votes are included in a recount, an accurate and valid count cannot be obtained. When there are more votes counted in a single precinct than votes cast on the night of the election, an accurate and valid count cannot be obtained. When hundreds, if not thousands, of absentee ballots were wrongly rejected and still not included in the recount, an accurate and valid count cannot been obtained.

"We are filing this contest to be absolutely sure that every valid vote was counted and no one's voted was counted more than anyone else's. The only way to do that is to guarantee that clear standards were applied fairly and uniformly throughout every single precinct of this state.

"Under Minnesota law there can be no valid election certificate issued if an election contest is filed. An election contest is the exact remedy the law provides to ensure that this recount and the associated inconsistencies that come with it are properly examined and properly resolved.

"That's what the Supreme Court said when it ruled the wrongly rejected absentee ballots that have still not been counted should be part of a contest. And it's what members of the Canvassing Board communicated when they said they did not have the power in a recount to deal with the double counting of original and duplicate ballots.

"While I understand there is a desire by a small number of people to simply move on, something greater than expediency is at stake here. As Americans we believe that every valid vote should count and that everybody's vote is equally to everyone else's.

"Democracy is not a machine. It's run by people working to obey the law as best they can. Sometimes it's messy and inconvenient, and reaching the best conclusion is never quick because speed is not the first objective: fairness is. I've directed my team to move as quickly as possible to resolve these issues. But we will not permit the full process to be shortcut. That would only cast greater doubt and uncertainty over the final result.

"A six-year term is a long, long time. Crucial decisions will be made during that period on the economy, national security and the rights of all Americans. Minnesotans deserve 100 percent confidence that their senator was fairly elected by all the people.

"Speaking personally for just a moment: it has been an enormous privilege for me and my family to be involved in serving the people of Minnesota for over 30 years, the last six in the United State Senate. I hope to keep doing so. I have been humbled by the privilege given to me, but I want to make it clear: nobody is indispensable. It's the will of the people that really matters.

"This is not just about me. The eyes of the nation are on the state that we love and we need to show them that Minnesota has done everything we can to make sure that we protect every voter's right. At this moment, I may not have a working office in D.C. or in St. Paul, but I still have my voice in Minnesota, and I certainly plan to use it.

"We need to get this right for all of us: a true, accurate and valid result of the Minnesota United States Senate Recount so all Minnesotans can have a Senator with the full credibility to lead and serve.

"Thank you and God bless."