July 1st, 2009
04:30 PM ET
5 years ago

Minnesota joins ranks of longest Senate sagas

(CNN) - The Minnesota Supreme Court's decision Tuesday declaring Democrat Al Franken as the winner of that state's long-disputed U.S. Senate race ends a prolonged legal and political drama exactly 34 weeks, or 238 days, after the election was held in November 2008.

At the time the court released its ruling, the state's second U.S. Senate seat had gone unfilled since Republican Norm Coleman's term ended on January 3, 2009, for a total of 178 days. The seat will remain unfilled for several more days until Franken officially takes the oath of office next week, when Congress returns from the July 4 recess.

This is the longest a U.S. Senate seat has gone unfilled since 1975 and the fourth-longest period a Senate seat has gone unfilled since the direct election of senators began in 1913. Illinois holds the record for the longest unfilled senate seat, when it took two years to replace a senator who had died in office.

The longest vacancy due to a contested election was in 1975 in New Hampshire. That election was held in November 1974 but was not fully resolved for 10 months. After a prolonged and inconclusive recount, the seat was officially declared vacant on August 8, 1975, at which point a temporary senator was appointed to fill the seat. A special election was held on September 16, 1975, and the winner took office on September 18, 1975.

A list of the longest Senate seat vacancies is after the jump

Senate Seat               Total Days        Dates Unfilled
Illinois (1926-28)           726            Dec. 7, 1926 - Dec. 2, 1928
Alabama (1913-14)            276            Aug. 8, 1913 - May 11, 1914
New Hampshire (1975)         217            Jan. 3, 1975 - Aug. 8, 1975
Minnesota (2009)             178*           Jan. 3, 2009 - June 30, 2009
New York (1938)              169            June 17, 1938 - Dec. 3, 1938
Wisconsin (1917-18)          163            Oct. 21, 1917 - Apr. 2, 1918
North Dakota (1925)          145            June 22, 1925 - Nov. 14, 1925
Louisiana (1935-36)          143            Sept. 10, 1935 - Jan. 31, 1936
Arkansas (1937)              134            July 4, 1937 - Nov. 15, 1937
Oregon (1995-96)             128            Oct. 1, 1995 - Feb. 6, 1996
Wisconsin (1957)             118            May 2, 1957 - Aug. 28, 1957
Vermont (1923)               117            July 12, 1923 - Nov. 6, 1923

*As of June 30, 2009. the seat will technically remain vacant until Franken is sworn in.
Source: CNN, U.S. Senate Historical Office

Filed under: Al Franken • Minnesota
soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. Polithist

    Actually, you are totally off base when you say Minnesota has elected terrible Senators. Hubert Humphrey, Walter Mondale, Eugene McCarthy, Paul Wellstone were all exceptional senators. Minnesota also elected a Republican in the 1920s to 1940s, Henrik Shipstead, who had an impressive record in office. We could only wish most states had senators in the past as outstanding as those from Minnesota!

    July 1, 2009 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  2. Robert Yoon, CNN

    to "Math?" "Qoheleth," "Randall Munroe" and other alert readers: wow, you're absolutely right. It's 34 weeks, not 41. Not sure what happened there. I'd like to say it was part of our "Find the intentional error, win a t-shirt promotion," but I'd be lying. It has now been corrected. Thanks for flagging it. Let's just keep this between us.

    July 1, 2009 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
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