A federal judge said Friday the election for Minnesota’s 2nd District, which had been postponed until February because of the death of a third-party candidate, should be held on Election Day after all.
Democratic-Farmer-Labor incumbent Angie Craig sued late last month after state officials postponed the election, and on Friday, a federal judge granted her an injunction. Her Republican opponent, Tyler Kistner, opposed Craig’s legal challenge and plans to appeal.
The death of Adam Weeks, the Legal Marijuana Now Party candidate, triggered a state law that says a special election has to be held in February if a major party candidate dies within 79 days of a November election. The delay likely would have meant the congressional district would have been without a representative during the first weeks of the new Congress.
Since ballots had already been printed and people were voting, the state’s order had said votes in the 2nd District race, in which Craig was seeking a second term, would not be counted.
U.S. District Judge Wilhelmina M. Wright wrote that the Minnesota secretary of state “shall not impede the right of Minnesota’s voters to vote in the November 3, 2020 general election.”
Craig had told her supporters to continue voting amid the legal challenge. And Craig and Kistner held a debate Friday in which they sparred over COVID-19 measures and health care policy.
“Minnesota does not have the authority to alter the date for federal elections,” Craig said in a statement after the ruling. “A February special election would have deprived the voters of the Second District of their seat at the table during a crucial period in Congress.”
Kistner said in a statement that he canceled TV and digital ad buys after the state's order and that numerous voters had reached out and said they did not vote because they had been told the votes would not be counted.
“As recently as this week, the United States Supreme Court and Appeals Courts have ruled that state laws cannot be overturned on the eve of an election. We are confident that the Minnesota State Law will be upheld during the appeals process,” Kistner said.
Kistner spokesman Billy Grant said at the time of Craig’s lawsuit that her party had supported the law regarding vacancies, which was enacted after DFL Sen. Paul Wellstone, along with his wife, daughter and five others, died in a plane crash less than two weeks before the 2002 election.