People could leave blank the Minnesota 2nd Congressional District race on their ballot. Any votes cast almost certainly won’t count or be counted due to Legal Marijuana Now candidate Adam Weeks’ death last week, but why take the chance? Vote anyway.
There are several reasons.
Fundamentally, there's no point in skipping this contest. Checking a box in every other race on the ballot will count. Why leave the one for Minnesota's 2nd Congressional District blank? Make a statement.
Sentimentally, some people -- especially residents of Goodhue and Rice counties -- might vote for Weeks as a memorial tribute. (He graduated from Northfield High School in 2000, eventually moved to Red Wing and grew vegetables without chemicals in rural Goodhue County.)
Politically, Legal Marijuana Now members might wish to speak up for their party, which qualifies as a major political party in Minnesota because enough people have voted for candidates in the past.
Politically, other people might wish to signal their support for Democratic incumbent Angie Craig or Republican challenger Tyler Kistner. Voters might do so to let these candidates know that come the Feb. 9 special election, they can count on them. Secretary of State Steve Simon has said the votes for those candidates will not be counted in November, but ballot information is public in Minnesota and you can bet that Democrats and Republicans will want to know the numbers.
Legally, there is a small window of doubt in this contest.
Simon has based his ruling on state law, which says that if a major party nominee dies within 79 days of Election Day, a special election must be held for that office the second Tuesday of February. Weeks’ death so close to Election Day Nov. 3, 2020, postpones the 2nd Congressional District vote until Feb. 9, 2021, he said.
However, federal law states that the Tuesday next after the first Monday in November in even-numbered years is established for electing congressional representatives and delegates in each of the states and territories.
Craig, who is finishing her first term, has hinted that a legal challenge is possible. She is urging people to vote in the race regardless.
Almost anything can happen in Minnesota politics. Consider that legal wrangling might result in Gov. Tim Walz having to appoint someone. Then those votes that didn’t “count” suddenly might -- symbolically -- by showing that district residents have a clear preference and Walz should choose accordingly.
Residents of Goodhue and Rice counties have additional reasons for special interest in this strange circumstance. In addition to Goodhue County and part of Rice being in the 2nd District, the region is again part of election history.
In the 1990 election for governor, Republican nominee Jon Grunseth dropped out just nine days ahead of Election Day following allegations of nude swimming with young girls at a pool party. The courts ruled four days later that Arne Carlson and running mate Red Wing Mayor Joanell Dyrstad -- who had lost to Grunseth and running mate Sharon Clark in the September primary -- would represent Republicans on the ballot … and they won.
Then in 2002 just 11 days before the general election, U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone of Northfield perished in a plane crash that also killed his wife, daughter, and five others. Norm Coleman went on to win over Democratic fill-in former Vice President and Sen. Walter Mondale.
Coleman then would lose to Al Franken six years later in a dramatic recount. Every ballot, every vote counted.
Indeed, almost anything can happen in Minnesota politics. Casting a vote any opportunity you can get is a good practice. Who knows what lies ahead in this great American experiment?