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I have noticed that for the 2016 election for Minnesota Senate District 50, one of the candidates has suspended her campaign:

Republican Kirsten Johnson of Richfield filed for the seat, but has suspended her campaign, citing an employer-identified conflict of interest. Her name will remain on the Nov. 8 ballot.

What happens if enough people vote for her that she wins? Is she elected or are her votes discarded?

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NOTE: I could not follow your link due to some firewall banning my geographic area1, and could not google any additional information on the web (there are only a few references to "Kirsten Jhonson candidate minnesota", and none seems recent enough to include the information you relate). I am basing my answer completely in your recollection.

First, one link and another link that basically explain that:

  • Technically speaking, suspending a campaign does not mean anything2. It is just a declaration of intentions, it is not notified to the Ellectoral commission and it causes no changes to the candidate status. The candidate remains in the ballot, is elegible, and can win. If the candidate wants, s/he may reactivate the campaign whenever s/he wants.

  • In a practical sense, it is often used by candidates who know they have almost no options. The difference from resigning from the ellectoral race is that while the candidate does not resign, s/he can still receive campaign funds in order to pay the debts due to the campaign.

Now for the case you refer, I might be wrong but the fact that a very specific reason has been given for the suspension might point that the candidate is at least thinking about remaining in the electoral race, despite the campaign being suspended3. If that does not change, she will remain in the ballot and be eligible.

Of course, at a latter date she may reconsider her position and drop altogether from the election. This is when things become interesting:

The Electoral Commission should try to ensure that the voting process is as straightforward as possible. This should mean removing the candidate for the ballot to avoid confussion and void votes, but that will depend of several factors, like:

  • The time availabe since the candidate formally announces his/her resignation until election day.

  • The kind of ballots (if there is electronic voting or individual ballots, it will be easier to remove the candidate ballots that it is a combined ballot with all the candidates in the same piece of paper (like in the "butterfly ballots").

  • Early and absentee voting (by the time the candidate retires, she may already have some votes cast for her).

In any case, since the USA system is based in individual candidates and not electoral lists, votes cast for a candidate that no longer is a candidate should usually be just discarded.

The only exception I can think of would be a jurisdiction where write-in candidates are allowed without the need of registration that decides that chosing the retired candidate ballot is equivalent to a write-in. I think it would be a rather strange idea (electing a candidate that has said that does not want to be elected, by electors that maybe do not know that the candidate has retired), but I do not know enough about Minnesota Electoral Law to completely disregard the possibility.


1 It is not my fault, I promise.

2 After all, it is not as if there were rules about how many speeches a candidate must give a week, or how many babies to kiss to decide if a candidate is "doing campaign" or not.

3 Of course, my mind- and future-reading abilities are somewhat limited. I am just making an educated guess.

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