New Delhi: While the final outcome of the US presidential election is yet to be announced, a Republican candidate from the state North Dakota was elected to the state legislature, a month after he died from Covid-19.
David Dean Andahl, a 55 year-old cattle rancher and land developer, was elected as a state representative of the 8th district of North Dakota Tuesday. He won 35.3 per cent of the vote alongside Republican David Nehring, who also won a seat with 40.72 per cent of the vote.
A largely rural state, North Dakota has a population of over 7,60,000 and has the highest per capita Covid-19 case rate in the country. It has been recording over 150 cases per 100,000 people in the past seven days.
While Andahl died on 7 October, his name could not be removed from the ballot because mail-in voting began in the state on 18 September, the New York Times noted, quoting North Dakota Secretary of State Alvin Jaeger.
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Andahl’s political career and sudden death
Earlier this year, Andahl won a primary election against incumbent North Dakota representative Jeff Delzer. The cattle-rancher was later endorsed by the North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum and known ‘Trump ally’ Senator Kevin Cramer.
According to a local media report, Cramer said he endorsed Andahl “because we need more Trump Republicans in the State Legislature”.
On 7 October, Andahl’s family announced that he had died of the novel coronavirus in a statement on his campaign’s Facebook page.
The statement read: “Our beloved son David passed away yesterday after a short battle with COVID-19. He was very cautious especially because he did have a few health challenges, but he was unable to fend off this disease.”
Andahl died less than a week after he was admitted to the hospital and is now one of at least 2,32,000 people in the US who have succumbed to the virus.
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Local Republican party to fill vacancy
On 17 October, the state’s attorney general, Wayne Stenehjem, said that if a recently deceased candidate wins a legislative race, a vacancy will occur and the local Republican Party will have to appoint someone else to fill the empty seat.
A local report noted that Stenehjem referred to what he termed as the “American rule” followed by a majority of states, which declares “the purpose of an election is to carry out the will of the people,” and dismissing the votes for a deceased candidate would “frustrate the popular will” and ignore the voice of qualified electors.
In the last 20 years, at least six dead candidates have won elections at different levels of government in the US.
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