Unless Franken gets temporary certificate, Senate seat could stay empty 5 months


David Schultz

Without a new state law requiring a provisional election certificate in cases like Al Franken’s, Minnesota could be without its second U.S. senator for four to five months. That’s the opinion of Hamline University School of Law professor David Schultz, who advised state Rep. Phyllis Kahn on her bill that would seat Franken temporarily until former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman’s current election contest trial is resolved.

In Schultz’s estimation, including time for appeals, the trial in Coleman’s lawsuit might last through June. “Do we want Minnesota to only have one U.S. senator [until then]?” Schultz said in an interview. That is a compelling reason for Gov. Tim Pawlenty to sign the bill, he said.

Kahn says she expects Schultz to testify in hearings on her bill, which she said will take a minimum of two weeks to pass the state Legislature.

One provision that Schultz said he suggested that’s not in Kahn’s bill is a requirement that the governor and secretary of state sign the provisional election certificate. Recently, in Illinois, the secretary of state refused to sign an election certificate for Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s appointee to fill President Barack Obama’s former seat in the U.S. Senate. The same thing could happen here, Schultz said, even under Kahn’s bill.

Schultz said that, to his knowledge, Minnesota is the only state, or one of very few, lacking a provision for temporary election certificates. He also believes the U.S. Senate has never seated a senator without an election certificate of some kind.