Absentee votes for Wellstone won’t be counted, official says

Jerome C. Pandell

Northwestern students from Minnesota who already sent in absentee ballots for the Nov. 5 election will not have votes for U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., counted after the senator died in a plane crash Friday, a Minnesota election official said Saturday.

Minnesota state election law prohibits votes for candidates who have died from being included in the election tally.

Any students who cast an absentee ballot can go their county auditor’s office and pick up a new ballot to recast a vote for the new Senate election, said Kent Kaiser, a spokesman for Minnesota Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer. But election laws also prevent Minnesota absentee voters from receiving a second ballot in the mail.

“The rest of their ballot counts, even if they do nothing,” Kaiser said. “But the law specifically prohibits a supplemental ballot from being mailed.”

The close race between Wellstone and his opponent, Republican candidate and former mayor of St. Paul, Minn., Norm Coleman, was considered central in deciding which party will control the Senate.

“If my vote is taken away, how can my voice be heard?” said Michael Trudell, a Medill junior from Wayzata, Minn. “It’s not like one can predict the person they are going to vote for is going to die.

“I should be able to support the new candidate and not just have my vote eliminated.”

But students who have not yet mailed their absentee ballots can write in the name of the new Democratic candidate once it is announced, Kaiser said.

At a press conference Saturday, Kiffmeyer said a new, supplemental ballot with the name of the new Democratic nominee would be printed for voters to use on Election Day.

Minnesota’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor party has until Thursday afternoon to submit the name of a new candidate, Kaiser said.

Some NU students from Minnesota who voted for Wellstone and already mailed their ballot said they were disappointed their vote would not be counted.

Weinberg freshman Cliff Lin of Rochester, Minn., said he met Wellstone in April at a school board meeting he was required to attend as part of a government class at Century High School.

“He was very articulate and very well-spoken,” Lin said. “He really believed what he talked about.”

Just three days before Wellstone’s death, Lin said he began looking for a fellow Minnesota resident to sign his absentee ballot as proof that the ballot had not been tampered with.

“I actually voted for (Wellstone) three days before he died,” Lin said. “He was the whole reason I voted.”

Medill junior Britt Gordon-McKeon, who interned for Wellstone this summer, said Wellstone’s political views initially attracted her to the job. But she will remember how Wellstone treated interns and constituents who visited his office in Washington.

“He went out of his way to make sure we felt appreciated,” Gordon-McKeon said. “It’s a shame anyone trying to support his causes and his principles would have that vote thrown away.”