By Jim EllisSept. 28, 2020 — A bizarre occurrence has happened in Minnesota that will apparently delay the 2nd Congressional District election until Feb. 9, 2021. Under state law, if a major party candidate passes away within 79 days of the general election date, the vote for the affected office is delayed for approximately three months.
Adam Weeks is the Legal Marijuana Now party congressional nominee, and under Minnesota election law this entity is recognized as a major party. Therefore, Weeks’ untimely and unexpected death earlier this week forces the congressional election of which he was a part to now be held Feb. 9. Though ballots are already printed, any votes cast for the 2nd District contest will not be recognized or counted.
The law came into effect after the death of Sen. Paul Wellstone (D) who perished along with his wife and daughter in a tragic plane crash 11 days before the 2002 election. Under Minnesota law at the time, a replacement nominee had to be chosen because the election would proceed as scheduled. That candidate became former vice president and Minnesota senator, Walter Mondale (D), who would go onto lose to Republican Norm Coleman in a close 50-47 percent election.
Taking action well after 2002, the state enacted the current statute that requires a postponement of the affected political contest. The situation directly touches freshman Rep. Angie Craig (D-Eagan) and Republican nominee Tyler Kistner. The Legal Marijuana Now party will have the opportunity to replace Weeks for the Feb. 9 election.
There are more ramifications than meet the eye here, however. First of all, Rep. Craig will have to leave office at the end of the current Congress because her term will expire. This means she will be out of office for more than one month of the new 117th session. This would put her at the end of the seniority list for the current freshman class if and when she eventually returns to the House.
Secondly, and perhaps the greater problem for all concerned, is that this particular Minnesota statute is likely to be found conflicting with the federal law that requires all states to hold a general election for federal offices on the same day, in this case Nov. 3, 2020.
The national election law also was the key factor in forcing Louisiana to hold its formatted jungle primary election concurrently with the general election date. Before, the Bayou State primary was held in September and anyone winning an absolute majority in that one election was declared the outright victor. The Justice Department ruled that the state could no longer hold an early jungle primary that allowed someone to win outright because it conflicted with the law requiring every state to hold a uniform and simultaneous general election.