Posted 2:28 p.m. Nov. 4
by Melissa Kronfeld
U-WIRE (DC BUREAU)
(U-WIRE) WASHINGTON-With Election Day hours away, the Minnesota senatorial race is plagued with a confusion that is reminiscent of the 2000 presidential election. The Oct. 25 death of Sen. Paul Wellstone (S-Minn.) has created massive complications regarding the Democratic ticket and the voting process.
Wellstone was seeking his third term as Minnesota senator when he died in an apparent plane crash on Oct. 25. The crash also claimed the lives of Wellstone’s wife, daughter, two pilots and three congressional aides.
The senator was leading Republican candidate Norm Coleman, the former mayor of St. Paul, in the opinion polls prior to his death.
Wellstone’s son, David, has asked former Vice President Walter Mondale to take his late father’s seat in the Senatorial race. Mondale, age 74, made his intentions known in a letter to Democratic Party Chairman Mike Erlandson on Wednesday.
“It is with a heavy heart but a great hope for the future that I will pick up the campaign where Paul Wellstone left off,” Mondale wrote. “Paul cannot be replaced. No one can. But his passion for Minnesotans and their needs can inspire us to continue the work he began.” Mondale has also promised to uphold Wellstone’s traditions if elected to office. He has also pledged to serve only one six-year term.
The largest complication resulting from Wellstone’s sudden and untimely death is the question of the absentee ballots containing Wellstone’s names. The ballots, sent prior to his death, all contain his name for the Democratic seat. Thursday, arguments from both the Democratic and Republican Party were presented to the Supreme Court regarding what course of actions should be taken to correct the Wellstone absentee ballots.
A few hours following the presented arguments, the Justices decided to issue an order without detailing their reasoning. The High Court stated that new absentee ballots and supplemental senatorial ballots be sent to all absentee voters, whether they were requested or not. It is estimated that absentee ballots account for 5 to 8 percent of all Minnesota votes.
All 87 counties in Minnesota are rushing to do as directed by the court, but it remains unclear how the ballots were be sent to the voters on time and whether or not they will be received before the mail-in deadline of Tuesday. The potential for a post-election fight looms.
Mondale is running a five day election campaign-one of the shortest in American political history. Despite this, the Democratic former Vice-President leads Coleman in the opinion polls 47 percent to 39 percent. But if Coleman wins the election, the Republican Party will take control of the Senate during an unexpected “lame duck” session before the next Congress convenes.
Prior to Wellstone’s death, the Democrats held fifty seats and the Republican’s forty-nine.
It is believed that the death of Wellstone will have a national impact on the election.
“It will draw a lot of sympathy to the Democratic Party by pointing to the tragic loss and make clear the plight of the Democratic Party as it comes to this election with its high risk of losing control of the Senate,” Ken Warren, a pollster and political scientist at St. Louis University, told reporters.
But Coleman continues to wage a very aggressive campaign, garnering massive support from both President George W. Bush and Vice President Richard Cheney. While campaigning with Coleman in Rochester, Minn., on Oct. 18, Bush told the crowd, “I need him in the United States Senate.”