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Analyst: Senate may decide Minn. election

Nov. 29, 2008 at 2:45 PM
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ST. PAUL, Minn., Nov. 29 (UPI) -- A statement by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., makes it more likely the Senate could intervene in a Minnesota election, an analyst says.

The Minnesota U.S. Senate contest between incumbent Republican Norm Coleman and Democratic challenger Al Franken is undergoing a recount, with the candidates separated by less than 300 votes out of 2.9 million cast. But a controversial decision by the state's Elections Canvassing Board could end up throwing the election into the lap of the Senate itself, a scholar told Minnesota Public Radio.

"Ultimately, the Senate has complete authority to determine who was elected," Washington University political scientist Steven Smith told the broadcaster, citing the canvassing board's decision this week to disallow disputed absentee ballots that Franken had urged be counted.

The board's move was "a cause for great concern," Reid said this week, and those comments may indicate his willingness to start a Senate investigation of the Minnesota recount, Smith said. And if so, it's possible that Franken's argument regarding rejected absentee ballots could be reconsidered by U.S. senators.

Under the constitution, the Senate is the final arbiter of its membership, MPR noted.

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