Republican Elected to North Dakota State Legislature, Despite Dying From COVID

David Andahl died aged 55 last month, but was elected with almost 36 per cent of the vote. His seat will now be declared vacant.
November 4, 2020, 11:38am
David Andahl North Dakota
Photo: David Andahl / Facebook

A Republican nominee who died from the coronavirus last month has nevertheless been elected to North Dakota’s state legislature. 

David Andahl, a rancher who was 55 when he died on Oct. 5, took nearly 36 percent of the vote to win one of two seats for state representatives in North Dakota’s eighth district, alongside a fellow Republican. Their closest opponent, a Democrat, could only muster up just over 11 percent of the vote, as voters in North Dakota, a Republican stronghold, overwhelmingly backed President Donald Trump and other GOP candidates.

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Andahl, endorsed by the state’s Republican Sen. Kevin Cramer as a “Trump Republican,” died more than two weeks after early voting for military and overseas voters began, four days after becoming sick with the virus.

Following his death, North Dakota’s Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem issued an opinion stating that the results should be treated in line with the rule followed by most states, in which his votes would be counted like any others, and the seat declared vacant if Andahl won.

“The votes cast for the deceased candidate should be counted,” he wrote. “To disregard the votes cast for a candidate would disenfranchise the voters of the state.”

He cited a state law in which Andahl’s replacement could be appointed by his party, or a special election called.

Andahl is not the first American lawmaker to posthumously win election. Just two years ago, Dennis Hof, a brothel owner and reality TV star, was elected to Nevada’s state legislature with more than twice the vote of his Democratic opponent, despite having died in his sleep three weeks earlier. The seat was declared vacant and a replacement was elected.

Despite leading the country in the number of new coronavirus infections per capita, according to the COVID-19 Tracking Project, North Dakota overwhelmingly voted for Trump. With more than 96 percent of the vote counted Wednesday, Trump had won more than 65 percent of the state’s vote, an even higher percentage than he won in 2016.