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Here's what happens if Franken resigns

Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., speaks while leading a rural health care discussion in Duluth in 2015. (News Tribune file photo)

If U.S. Sen. Al Franken resigns Thursday, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton will appoint a replacement.

She or he could be just about anyone. Requirements: Minnesota resident, at least 30 years old, and a U.S. citizen for at least nine years.

The 17th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution allows states to give the governor this authority to fill a vacancy, and Minnesota has done so.

Franken’s six-year term is set to expire in January 2021, but the Dayton appointee would not stay in office that long without an election.

A special election would be held in November 2018 — the same time Minnesotans will be voting for governor and the state’s other Senate seat, held by U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar. The Dayton appointee need not run for re-election at that time. He or she could be a short-time placeholder.

The winner of the special election would serve out the remainder of Franken’s term — until January 2021 — and face re-election in November 2020, thus restoring the six-year cycle of Senate seats.

If Franken were to stay in office through May or longer, a different state provision would postpone the special election until November 2019.

The last time this happened was after U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone died in a plane crash in 2002. Gov. Jesse Ventura appointed Dean Barkley. No special election was needed because Wellstone’s death happened shortly before the regularly scheduled election. Norm Coleman won that race, and in 2008, Franken defeated Coleman.

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