The constitutional proviso that “each house (of Congress) shall be the judge of the elections, returns, and qualifications of its own members” could well be put to the test in the coming weeks, if Al Franken ends up appealing the results of his Minnesota Senate race against Norm Coleman to the U.S. Senate.
The logic behind such a move would be obvious: If Coleman, who led by 215 votes after the initial election night count, ends up being declared the winner and Franken can make a plausible case that the recount was somehow flawed and he was the rightful winner, the Democratic-dominated Senate would, presumably, be inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt and find a rationale for seating him.
As one Democratic senator supposedly put it the last time the Senate was called upon to mediate an election: “We should count the ballots, debate the issues fully and fairly, and then vote to seat the Democrat.”
That was more than 30 years ago, back in 1975, when two different recounts in New Hampshire produced two different winners. Then, as now, Democrats enjoyed a healthy majority in the Senate, and it was the Democratic candidate who asked the chamber to resolve the election. But the process that then played out wasn’t nearly as quick, orderly or predictable as he thought it would be, an example that could serve as a cautionary note if the current Minnesota race does land in the Senate.
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