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When Does It End?

When Does It End?

By Kyle Trygstad - January 6, 2009

As the saying goes, it ain't over 'til it's over. So, with that in mind, is Minnesota's extended Senate race over or not? That's apparently up for debate among Senate leadership, but what's certain is that the state will continue to have just one senator beyond today's swearing-in ceremonies.

"There comes a time when you have to acknowledge a race is over," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said at a press conference yesterday. "The race is over."

Standing at the same podium 10 minutes later, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had a different take on the situation. "At the risk of boring you, let me just tell you that the race in Minnesota is not over until the people in Minnesota say it's over," McConnell said. "And the way you say it's over in Minnesota is somebody shows up here with an election certificate. And as I understand it, that's not going to happen tomorrow."

According to the state of Minnesota, it's been certified that Democrat Al Franken is leading at the end of the recount, but the state is prohibited under law from declaring a winner or issuing a certificate of election until all litigation has been concluded. Republican incumbent Norm Coleman's campaign announced yesterday that it does intend to sue, ensuring the process will be drawn out further.

Shortly after the Nov. 4 election, the Coleman campaign questioned whether it was worth the tax dollars for Franken to call for a recount and sought for some absentee ballots to not be counted. Now it's Coleman who is extending the election and calling for more absentee ballots to be counted.

"This process isn't at the end; it is now just at the beginning," said Coleman counsel Tony Trimble. "We will contest the results of the Canvassing Board -- otherwise, literally millions of Minnesotans will be disenfranchised."

Trimble called the "utter lack of uniformity in the treatment of rejected absentee ballots" from county to county the "most troublesome aspect of the recount," and said it violates the Equal Protection Clause in the 14th Amendment.

In a statement, Reid spokesman Jim Manley acknowledged that Franken would not be seated tomorrow, but called on Coleman to bring the process to a close quickly. "Shortly after Election Day, Coleman criticized Mr. Franken for wanting a recount and wasting taxpayer money," said Manley. "Now that it is clear he lost, Coleman should follow his own advice and not subject the people of Minnesota to a costly legal battle."

Kyle Trygstad is a Washington correspondent for RealClearPolitics. Email him at: kyle@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @KyleTrygstad.

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