Alynda Wheat
April 14, 2009 AT 04:33 AM EDT

Comedian-turned-candidate Al Franken may be one step closer to becoming Minnesota’s next senator, the Associated Press reports. A three-judge panel rejected the claims of Franken’s opponent, incumbent Norm Coleman, maintaining that Franken won the most votes in last year’s senatorial contest. “Franken received the highest number of legally cast ballots in the November 4, 2008 general election for United States Senator for the State of Minnesota and is entitled to receive the election certificate,” the judges decreed.

Saturday Night Live alum Franken and opponent Coleman have spent the past five months continuing to wage their campaigns in the courts, with Franken holding a narrow lead over the incumbent from the earliest November tallies. Last week, the judges oversaw the counting of 351 absentee ballots that had been tossed out by election officials, after which Franken increased his lead to 312 votes — in a state of nearly 3.2 million registered voters. Coleman has 10 days to file an expected appeal to the state supreme court.

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