ST. PAUL, Minn. - A Minnesota court confirmed yesterday that Democrat Al Franken won the most votes in his 2008 Senate race against Republican Norm Coleman.

Coleman, who had already announced plans to appeal the decision, has 10 days to do so to the state Supreme Court. Once his petition is filed, that could further delay the seating of Minnesota's second senator for weeks.

More than five months after the Nov. 4 election, and after a statewide recount and seven-week trial, Franken stands 312 votes ahead. He gained more votes from the election challenge than did Coleman, who brought the legal action.

The state law under which Coleman sued required three judges to determine who got the most votes and who is therefore entitled to an election certificate, which is now on hold pending the appeal.

"The overwhelming weight of the evidence" indicates that the Senate election "was conducted fairly, impartially and accurately," the judges wrote. "There is no evidence of a systematic problem of disenfranchisement in the state's election system, including in its absentee-balloting procedures."

The ruling diminishes Coleman's chances of retaining a seat he won in 2002, when he narrowly defeated former Vice President Walter Mondale, who'd stepped in after Democratic incumbent Paul Wellstone died in a plane crash two weeks before the election.