Supreme Court rejects delay of 2nd District vote

Two side by side portraits one of a woman and one of a man.
DFL U.S. Rep. Angie Craig (left) and Republican challenger Tyler Kistner.
Evan Frost | MPR News and Submitted

Updated: 6:50 p.m.

A Minnesota Republican candidate's bid to delay voting in his congressional race to February due to the death of a third-party candidate was rejected Tuesday at the Supreme Court.

Justice Neil Gorsuch, who handles emergency requests from the federal appeals court that oversees Minnesota, denied the request from Tyler Kistner. As is typical when the court acts on an emergency basis, Gorsuch did not say anything in denying the request. But he also didn't ask Kistner's opponent to respond in writing or refer the question to the full court, suggesting it wasn't a close question.

“We appreciate the Supreme Court's timely response to our request,” Kistner said in a press release. “It's unfortunate that Angie Craig is continuing to silence and disenfranchise thousands of her own constituents. As we have said before, we continue to urge Minnesotans to vote in the November 3rd election, and we look forward to debating the merits of this law in the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in November."

Kistner is running against Democrat Angie Craig, the incumbent, in the Nov. 3 race for Minnesota’s competitive 2nd District.

The Craig-Kistner race, for a seat that stretches southward from St. Paul's suburbs, was thrown into confusion after the September death of Legal Marijuana Now Party candidate Adam Weeks. Since that party has major status in Minnesota and the death was sufficiently close to the election, it triggered a state law calling for a delay until February.

But Craig won a lower-court ruling to block the delay and the election was moved back to Nov. 3. An appeals court left that decision in place, saying there are strong reasons for a uniform date for federal elections, and there must be compelling circumstances for a state to be permitted to change the date.

Kistner appealed to the Supreme Court for an emergency order putting on hold the lower court ruling. Kistner’s case is still active in the appeals court, but arguments won’t be heard there until after the election.

“Three different courts and five federal judges, including Justice Neil Gorsuch, have now confirmed what we have known all along: that the voters of Minnesota’s Second Congressional District deserve to have their voices heard as part of the November general election. Tyler Kistner has made his case — three times — and it has been rejected three times,” Craig said in a statement following the decision.

Craig is expected to benefit from the high turnout on Election Day. Kistner’s chances may have been better in a special election, in which Republicans tend to have a greater advantage from the lower turnout.

The Minnesota law calling for an election delay following the death of a major-party candidate was passed years after Sen. Paul Wellstone’s died in a 2002 plane crash. Wellstone died just 11 days before the election, triggering a frenetic race in which Republican Norm Coleman defeated former Vice President Walter Mondale, who was tapped to take Wellstone’s place as the Democratic candidate.

Autopsy results released Tuesday by the Southern Minnesota Regional Medical Examiner’s Office found Weeks died of ethanol and fentanyl toxicity.

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