In August, the Federal Way Mirror in Washington State said of their close 30th District state house election, "this race may be the most interesting to watch. Two good, smart candidates who know the issues and will run a very clean race."
It was a race to watch, but not for the reason they predicted.
The incumbent Democratic state Rep. Roger Freeman — one of two black representatives in the state legislature — died at the end of October at the age of 48. Around 15 percent of the district's voters had already mailed in their ballots, and at the end of Election night he had a six-point-lead over his Republican opponent, Jack Dovey.
The death was so recent that most voters were simply unaware that it had happened, and voted for the incumbent or on a party line. Local news station KVAL spoke to one such person on Tuesday night.
Voter Steven Hinz cast a ballot for Freeman because he didn't know the candidate had died.
"I did not know that," he said. "When did he pass away?"
Since Freeman would not be able to effectively serve his terms, the two counties that make up the 30th district will select a temporary legislator from three possibilities offered by local Democrats. A special election would then be held next year.
Voters elect people whose hearts no longer thump to the beat of democracy more than you'd think. Last year, Oregon voters elected a man to the Aberdeen City Council five months after he died. Missouri elected a dead man who was running unopposed to serve as county commissioner in 2010. Three weeks before the 2000 election, Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan died in a plane crash. When he won a Senate race against John Ashcroft, his widow was appointed to take his place.
Hackensack High School Principal Joseph DeFalco died after the polls had opened in 2005, and was elected to the city council for a four-year term he could not complete, or even start. In 1998, a dead woman, Jacquelyn Morrow Lewis Ledgerwood, made it to a run-off in the Oklahoma Senate's Democratic primary.
The New York Times reported at the time,
''It's really baffling,'' Brent Wilcox, political director at the state Democratic Party, said today. ''I had a couple people tell me they voted for her because she had the longest name.''