Norm Coleman (R)

ST. Paul, Minn. (Legal Newsline)-Republican Norm Coleman will appeal Monday's court decision that gave Democrat Al Franken the protracted U.S. Senate race in Minnesota, a spokesman said.

On Monday, a three-judge panel rejected claims by Coleman's legal team that there were systemic problems in the Senate vote tally and that more absentee ballots should have been counted.

Franken, the 57-year-old comedian-turned-politician, won the initial ballot recount in January by 225 votes. Coleman sued, contesting the election results.

Last week, yet another ballot count gave Franken an edge. This time, he had a 312 vote lead over 59-year-old Coleman, the incumbent. The count was of 351 of 387 previously rejected absentee ballots. Forty-two of the ballots went to other and third-party candidates.

Lawyers said most of the discarded votes came from precincts Coleman won. They said by counting more, Franken's lead would have likely been erased.

Coleman spokesman Ben Ginsberg said an appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court would likely be filed next week. Coleman has 10 days to file the appeal to the 68-page decision that the three-judge panel issued Monday.

"The point is that there are still thousands of voters who have not had their votes counted whose votes should be counted," Ginsberg said.

An appeal by Coleman could mean weeks of delay in seating Minnesota's second senator.

Political observers say the stakes are high for both the candidates and the partisan balance in the U.S. Senate since a Franken victory would give Democrats 59 seats in the upper house -- counting the two independents who caucus with the Democrats -- which is just one vote shy of the number needed to break Republican filibusters.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., a member of the Democratic leadership team, has called on Coleman to concede the race. Meanwhile, some Senate Republicans, including John Cornyn of Texas, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, have said Coleman should appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

For his part, Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who is considered to have national political aspirations, has said he will not certify the election until all the court challenges are resolved.

Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, a Democrat, said he will sign an election certificate after the state Supreme Court rules on Coleman's appeal.

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at

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