MN01 Marijuana and Mail-in Precincts Key to Hagedorn Re-election

The results are unofficial, but it appears what some national observers called a “toss-up” contest in Minnesota’s First District, will be a 3% victory for the incumbent Jim Hagedorn.

Surprised ?

Considering the numerous ethics issues circulating around Congressman Hagedorn and his narrow 1,315 margin in 2018, a rematch with Dan Feehan certainly would lead one to think that the race would be close … certainly not a 12,000 vote margin.

The preliminary results indicate that Congressman Hagedorn has 49% with Feehan getting 45% and the Grassroots – Legalize Cannabis Party’s Bill Rood garnering 6%. That’s right a candidate who does not even appear to have filed paperwork with the Federal Elections Commission received 6% of the vote.

According to Bill Rood’s website, he previously ran under the Libertarian Party banner for the Minnesota legislature and listed his affiliation with the Republican Party in 2012. Rood’s statements include support for : “the legalization of recreational marijuana”; “end the surveillance state”; “end civil forfeiture”; “no medical totalitarianism with mandatory vaccines, tracking or chips”; and, “construction of a wall and other necessary infrastructure on our border that gives complete control over entering and exiting the United States.”

How well voters reviewed Bill Rood’s positions is unknown … also unknown is any campaign expenditures he had (or monies received) … but he ran under the “marijuana” logo, so some voters may have just seen the attack ads against Congressman Hagedorn and candidate Feehan, and just opted for the “anybody but Hagedorn and Feehan“. Did any of the over 20,000 voters who cast their support for Bill Rood, really think he would win ?

Thus, ya gotta wonder if ranked choice voting was used — with a 50% threshold not achieved, would the outcome be different ?

Remember there was no third party candidate on the ballot in 2018 when the election was margin thin. And questions have been asked after a Star-Tribune story of a voicemail message that Legal Marijuana Now Party candidate Adam Weeks told a longtime friend that Republicans in Minnesota’s Second District approached him two weeks before the filing deadline to run for Congress in the hopes he’d “pull votes away” from incumbent DFL … Weeks said he didn’t have any funding to run a campaign, but Republicans were offering him $15,000.

Another factor that contributed to Congressman Hagedorn’s victory may be the closing of in-person voting for small precincts in the vast rural district. Did you know that about 220,000 Minnesota voters live in places where ballots are mailed to all registered voters before every election. State law allows non-metro townships and small cities with fewer than 400 registered voters to opt for voting exclusively by mail. In 2020, Minnesota re-classified over 400 in-person to mail-in precincts.

Ours is a rural area, and with harvesting and fall tilling to do, do you really wanna take time to go to the polls ? Ya, it is our “civic duty” so for decades, my spouse and I would bundle up and drive to the local elementary school to stand in line for a minute, get greeted by the poll workers with the common chuckle, “Gosh, haven’t seen ya since last election”, a quick marking of the ballots, and a wave goodbye saying, “See ya in church Sunday.

Now, things have changed … the elementary school is closed with the kids bused eight miles farther away … and voting is now done when the postal carrier delivers the mail-in ballot.

While Dan Feehan saw an increase in counties home to larger cities, like Olmsted County (Rochester) where he expanded his margin by roughly 3,000 votes, or Blue Earth (Mankato) where he picked up roughly 600 votes, things looked encouraging that his 1,315 vote deficit could be erased. But now every registered voter in mail-in precincts automatically received a ballot with pre-paid postage. So easy — no driving required as the postal carrier picks up the ballots at our roadside mailbox.

In my precinct, the 2016 results (with in-person voting) showed Trump at 164 and Clinton at 86 with Hagedorn getting 151 to Tim Walz’s 130. The 2018 results were Hagedorn 209 to Feehan’s 166. The 2020 preliminary results indicate Trump at 273 to Biden’s 188 with Hagedorn at 242, Feehan at 186 and Rood at 35. Clearly an increase in voter participation.

That’s just one precinct, yet ya gotta think that with the ease of mail-in voting in areas where Congressman Hagedorn carried strong support, that just contributed getting his voters to participate. I have randomly checked other mail-in precincts and noticed the same increase in participation.

Of course, in a democracy, we want everyone to participate … so if Congressman Hagedorn won because he got more votes, that’s fair. Yet, when over 91% of registered voters participate in mail-in precincts and the rest of the district does not hit that level, that is a concern.

The 2020 election will soon be finalized, which means the state legislature should look to expand mail-in voting (if every precinct was over 90%, that would be a great democracy); consider ranked-choice voting; and define the when mail-in ballots must be received (if my property tax payment is accepted as not being late based on the postmark, why isn’t my ballot?)

Oh, and finally address the marijuana question …. in my Senate district, the Legal Marijuana Now party candidate received over 21% of the votes. Clearly, it motivates voters … yet, it’s the Republicans who seem to be opposed to this.