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Pioneer Editorial: Al Franken now must earn salary

After 239 days -- eight months -- Minnesota finally has a second senator.

In a 5-0 ruling Tuesday, the Minnesota Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's decision "that Al Franken received the highest number of votes legally cast and is entitled under (Minnesota law) to receive the certificate of election as United States Senator from the State of Minnesota."

Norm Coleman, who held the post for six years, conceded the race, and Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Secretary of State Mark Ritchie signed the certificate of election Tuesday evening. Sen.-elect Franken is expected to be sworn into office sometime early next week in the U.S. Senate, becoming the Democrats' 60th member.

In that regard, Sen.-elect Franken's victory could become overshadowed by his being No. 60, allowing Democrats -- and President Barack Obama -- to move their agendas through that body without threat of filibuster from Republicans. It will be an historic moment as Democrats will hold significant majorities in the House, the Senate and the White House. It will also be easy to criticize, as if something doesn't work only the Democrats will be to blame.

Here in Minnesota, Tuesday's Supreme Court decision should be studied carefully to reveal if legislation is needed to change Minnesota's election system. No time ever before has Minnesota gone so long with only one senator in Washington, and in having such a major statewide race decided by such a razor-thin margin.

The ruling discounts Mr. Coleman's arguments that absentee ballots were handled differently among counties, stated it's belief that the trial court exhibited substantive due process, and that equal protection was exhibited as election officials handling absentee ballots did not know the voter's intent behind sealed envelopes whereas in the 2000 Bush vs. Gore cited election officials handling ballots where the voter's intent was punched out on a card.

There may be lessons to be learned from Coleman vs. Franken, a subject worthy of study probably for years in the hopes Minnesota never sees such a case again.

And, both Sen.-elect Franken and Mr. Coleman in Tuesday gave great thanks to Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota's lone senator for the first six months of 2009, and her staff for doing ably doing double duty for Minnesota and for Minnesotans.

Now is the time for all Minnesotans to pull together and allow Mr. Franken to set up shop and get to work for all of us. And, of course, for all of us to let him know what we think is best for Minnesota so he knows where he stands.

Come next week, it will be time for Sen. Franken to earn his salary.