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How to Vote for a Write-In Candidate

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By Brett Hawkins

It is a common misconception among voters nationwide that the only citizens in the running for political office are those explicitly listed on the ballot. What these people do not know is that there are more choices to consider via the write-in candidacy. Those who have applied and are eligible for write-in candidacy do not appear on the ballot themselves, but may still be voted for by writing the candidate’s name on the marked space available above the voting booklet.
This formula has worked well for various political figures such as Beverly O’Neill, Long Beach’s previous mayor. Having already served two terms as mayor, O’Neill was ineligible to be on the ballot but was allowed to run as a write-in candidate. O’Neill finished first in her seven-candidate primary and won 47 percent in a final vote between three candidates. Another case is that of Hillsdale, Michigan’s Michael Sessions. An 18-year-old high school senior, Sessions was too young to be eligible for the ballot but won his election through the write-in process. With such a process as this, several fictional characters such as Mickey Mouse and ineligible citizens of the nation such as Reverend Al Sharpton receive write-in votes. Most notable of these cases is filmmaker Michael Moore’s campaign for a ficus tree as a write-in candidate during the 2000 United States Congress elections.
“The choice is yours to make and it is as easy as writing a name at the top of a ballot,” explains campaign coordinator Nathan Israel.
When ballots are blank due to various ineligibility and other reasons, write-in candidates serve as a holdover and are occasionally the only nominees possible to vote for on a ballot with no names.
In a partisan primary, many states and municipalities will allow for write-in candidates to be voted for where no candidate is listed on the ballot to have an identical effect as nominating petitions (i.e. if there are no Libertarian Party members on the ballot for state general assembly and one of the candidates receives enough write-in votes [usually over 200 unless the candidacy is determined by a specific amount of signatures] when the primary election takes place, the candidate will earn a spot on the ballot on that particular ballot line for the general election). This provision exists for non-partisan elections as well.
So, in detail, a voter must first find the office for which the candidate is running and then print that candidate’s name on the write-in line for that office (at the top of the ballot). Lastly, if there is a bubble next to the write-in’s name, that bubble must be filled in for the vote to count.

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How to Vote for a Write-In Candidate