Write-in candidate: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A write-in candidate is a candidate in an election whose name does not appear on the ballot, but for whom voters may vote nonetheless by writing in the person's name. Some states and local jurisdictions allow a voter to affix a sticker with a write-in candidate's name on it to the ballot in lieu of actually writing in the candidate's name. Write-in candidacies are sometimes a result of a candidate being legally or procedurally ineligible to run under his own name or party. In some cases, write-in campaigns have been organized to support a candidate who is not personally involved in running; this may be a form of draft campaign.

Write-in candidates rarely win, and votes are often cast for ineligible people or fictional characters. Some jurisdictions require write-in candidates be registered as official candidates before the election.[1] This is standard in elections with a large pool of potential candidates, as there may be multiple candidates with the same name that could be written in.

Write-in candidates are a holdover from the time when ballot papers were blank, and had no names printed on them at all. Gradually, the ballots were arranged to have all the names of the candidates printed on them, with a "write-in" provision for latecomers.

Many states and municipalities allow for write-in votes in a partisan primary where no candidate is listed on the ballot to have the same functional effect as nominating petitions: for example, if there are no Reform Party members on the ballot for state general assembly and a candidate receives more than 200 write-in votes when the primary election is held (or the other number of signatures that were required for ballot access), the candidate will be placed on the ballot on that ballot line for the general election. In most places, this provision is in place for non-partisan elections as well.


United States

Typically, write-in candidates have a very small chance of winning, but there have been some notable write-in candidates in the past.


  • In 1920, Eugene V. Debs, a staunch socialist who had been convicted by the Espionage Act of 1917 for an anti-war speech that he made in Columbus, Ohio, ran a write-in campaign from his federal prison cell in Atlanta. Debs received almost a million popular votes out of approximately 26 million cast, the most votes a Socialist Party candidate has received in U.S. history.


House of Representatives

  • In 1930 Republican Charles F. Curry, Jr. was elected to the House as a write-in from Sacramento, California. His father, Congressman Charles Curry Sr., was to appear on the ballot, but due to his untimely death his name was removed and no candidate's name appeared on the ballot.
  • Democrat Dale Alford was elected as a write-in candidate to the United States House of Representatives in Arkansas in 1958. As member of the Little Rock school board, Alford launched his write-in campaign a week before the election because the incumbent, Brooks Hays, was involved in the incident in which president Eisenhower sent federal troops to enforce racial integration at Little Rock Central High School. Racial integration was unpopular at the time, and Alford won by approximately 1,200 votes, a 2% margin.[3]
  • Republican Joe Skeen was elected as a write-in candidate to Congress in New Mexico in November 1980 after the incumbent Democrat, Harold Runnels, died in August of that year. No Republican filed to run against Runnels before the close of filing, and after the death, the New Mexico Secretary of State ruled that the Democrats could have a special primary to pick a replacement candidate, but the Republicans could not have a special election, since they had nobody to replace. Runnels' widow lost the special primary, and launched her own write-in candidacy, which split the Democratic vote and allowed Skeen to win with a 38% plurality.[3]
  • Ron Packard of California finished in second place in the 18 candidate Republican primary to replace the retiring Clair Burgener. Packard lost the primary by 92 votes in 1982, and then mounted a write-in campaign as an independent. He won the election with a 37% plurality against both a Republican and a Democratic candidate. Following the elections, he re-aligned himself as a Republican.[3]
  • Democrat Charlie Wilson was the endorsed candidate of the Democratic Party for the 6th congressional district in Ohio to replace Ted Strickland in 2006. Strickland was running for Governor and had to give up his congressional seat. Wilson, though, did not qualify for the ballot because only 46 of the 96 signatures on his candidacy petition were deemed valid, while 50 valid signatures were required for ballot placement. The Democratic Party continued to support Wilson, and an expensive primary campaign ensued - over $1 million was spent by both parties. Wilson overwhelmingly won the Democratic primary as a write-in candidate on May 2, 2006 against two Democratic candidates whose names were on the ballot, with Wilson collecting 44,367 votes, 67% of the Democratic votes cast.[4] Wilson faced Republican Chuck Blasdel in the general election on November 7, 2006, and won, receiving 61% of the votes.
  • Democrat Dave Loebsack entered the 2006 Democratic primary in Iowa's second congressional district as a write-in candidate after failing to get the required number of signatures. He won the primary and in the general election he defeated 15 term incumbent Jim Leach by a 51% to 49% margin.
  • Jerry McNerney ran as a write-in candidate in the March 2004 Democratic Primary in California's 11th congressional district. He received 1,667 votes (3% of the votes cast), and, having no opposition (no candidates were listed on the Democratic primary ballot), won the primary.[5] Although he lost the November 2004 general election to Republican Richard Pombo, McNerney ran again in 2006 (as a candidate listed on the ballot) and won the Democratic Primary in June, and then the rematch against Pombo in November.
  • Shelley Sekula-Gibbs failed as a write-in candidate in the November 7, 2006 election to represent the 22nd Texas congressional district in the 110th Congress (for the full term commencing January 3, 2007). The seat had been vacant since June 9, 2006, due to the resignation of the then representative Tom DeLay. Therefore, on the same ballot, there were two races: one for the 110th Congress, as well as a race for the unexpired portion of the term during the 109th Congress (until January 3, 2007). Sekula-Gibbs won the race for the unexpired portion of the term during the 109th Congress as a candidate listed on the ballot. She could not be listed on the ballot for the full term because Texas law did not allow a replacement candidate to be listed on the ballot after the winner of the primary (Tom DeLay) has resigned.
  • Peter Welch, a Democrat representing Vermont's sole congressional district, became both the Democratic and Republican nominee for the House when he ran for re-election in 2008. Because the Republicans did not field any candidate on the primary ballot, Welch won enough write-in votes to win the Republican nomination.[6]

State-wide offices

  • Thomas M. Salmon, a Democrat serving as Vermont's State Auditor of Accounts, became both the Democratic and Republican nominee for the office when he ran for re-election in 2008. Because the Republicans did not field any candidate on the primary ballot, Salmon won enough write-in votes to win the Republican nomination.[6]

State legislatures

  • Charlotte Burks won as a Democratic write-in candidate for the Tennessee State Senate seat left vacant when the incumbent, her husband Tommy, was assassinated by his opponent, Byron Looper, two weeks before the elections of November 2, 1998. Because the assassination occurred only two weeks prior to the elections, the names of the dead incumbent and his assassin remained on the ballot, and Charlotte ran as a write in candidate.
  • Carl Hawkinson of Galesburg, Illinois won the Republican primary for State Senator from Illinois's 47th District in 1986 as a write-in candidate. He went on to be elected in the general election and served until 2003. Hawkinson defeated another write-in, David Leitch, in the primary. Incumbent State Senator Prescott Bloom died in a home fire after the filing date for the primary had passed.
  • Several members of the Alaska House of Representatives were elected as write-in candidates during the 1960s and 1970s, mostly from the rural western portions of the state. Likely factors include the newness of Alaska as a state and the previous absence of electoral politics in many of the rural communities, creating an environment which made it hard to attract candidates to file for office during the official filing period, plus the lack of political power held by Alaska natives at the time of statehood, which began to change in the wake of the formation of the Alaska Federation of Natives and the passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. Known examples of successful write-in candidates include Kenneth A. Garrison and Father Segundo Llorente (1960), Frank R. Ferguson (1972) and Nels A. Anderson Jr. (1976). Ferguson and Anderson were both incumbents who launched their write-in campaigns after being defeated in the primary election. Anderson's opponent, Joe McGill, had himself won election to the House in 1970 against a write-in candidate by only 5 votes.

Mayors/City Councils

  • Julia Allen of Readington, New Jersey won a write-in campaign in the November 2005 elections for the Township Committee,[7] after a candidate accused of corruption had won the primary. [8]
  • Tom Ammiano, President of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, entered the race for Mayor of San Francisco, California as a write-in candidate two weeks before the 1999 general election. He received 25% of the vote, coming in second place and forcing incumbent Mayor Willie Brown into a runoff election, which Brown won by margin of 59% to 40%. In 2001, the campaign was immortalized in the award-winning documentary film See How They Run.
  • Donna Frye ran as a write-in candidate for Mayor of San Diego, California in 2004. A controversy erupted when several thousand votes for her were not counted because the voters had failed to fill in the bubble next to the write-in line. Had those votes been counted, she would have won the election.
  • Michael Jarjura was re-elected Mayor of Waterbury, Connecticut in 2005 as a write-in candidate after losing the Democratic party primary to Karen Mulcahy, who used to serve as Waterbury's tax collector before Jarjura fired her in 2004 "for what he claimed was her rude and abusive conduct toward citizens".[9] After spending $100,000 on a general elections write-in campaign,[10] Jarjura received 7,907 votes, enough for a plurality of 39%.[11]
  • James Maher won the mayorship of Baxter Estates, New York on March 15, 2005 as a write-in candidate with 29 votes. Being the only one on the ballot, the incumbent mayor, James Neville, did not campaign, as he did not realize that there was a write-in campaign going on. Neville received only 13 votes.[12]
  • Beverly O'Neil won a third term as Mayor of Long Beach, California as a write-in candidate in 2002. The Long Beach City City Charter has a term limit amendment that says a candidate cannot be on the ballot after two full terms, but does not prevent the person from running as a write-in candidate.[13] She finished first in a seven-candidate primary, but did not receive more than 50% of the vote, forcing a runoff contest. In the runoff, still restricted from the ballot, she got roughly 47% of the vote in a three-way election that included a second write-in candidate.[14]
  • Michael Sessions, an 18-year-old high school senior, won as a write-in candidate for Mayor of Hillsdale, Michigan in 2005. He was too young to qualify for the ballot.
  • Anthony A. Williams, the former Mayor of Washington, DC was forced to run as a write-in candidate in the 2002 Democratic primary, because he had too many invalid signatures for his petition. He won the Democratic primary, and went on to win re-election.


  • Aaron Schock was elected to the District 150 School Board in Peoria, Illinois in 2001 by a write-in vote, after his petitions were challenged and his name was removed from the ballot. He defeated the incumbent by over 2,000 votes, approximately 6,400 to 4,300 votes.[15] He went on to serve in the Illinois House of Representatives, and was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 2008.
  • John Adams became an Orange County, California judge in November 2002 after running along with 10 other write-in candidates in the primaries on March 5, 2002 against incumbent Judge Ronald Kline.[16] After the filing deadline in which no candidate filed to run against Kline, a computer hacker discovered that Judge Kline had child pornography on his home computer. Kline got less than 50% of the vote in the primaries, requiring a runoff between him and write-in candidate John Adams (who actually received more votes than Kline).[17] After some legal maneuvers, Kline's name was removed from the general elections, leaving the general election a runoff between Adams and Gay Sandoval, who was the second highest write-in vote getter.[18] Charges against Kline were eventually thrown out.[19]
  • On September 15, 2009, four write-in candidates in the Independence Party primaries for various offices in Putnam County, New York defeated their on-ballot opponents.[20]

Other countries

With a few exceptions, the practice of recognizing write-in candidates is typically viewed internationally as an American tradition.[21][22]

  • Several cases of elected write-in candidates took place in the 2006 Swedish municipal elections. Due to Swedish electoral law, free ballots are provided for any party that received more than 1 percent of the votes in one of the two latest parliamentary elections, irrespective of whether the party actually stood any candidates in the municipality. In some municipalities, voters cast a sufficient number of ballots for the nationalist Sweden Democrats to allow them to get a seat on the municipal council. (Municipal councils in Sweden are relatively large, with even the smallest municipalities, numbering just a few thousand inhabitants, required to have a council of at least 31 members.) In case the party did not field any eligible candidates, people whose names were written in were elected, though many subsequently resigned their seats. In places where no candidates were written in, the seats were left empty. [23]
  • A strange incident involving a fictitious write-in candidacy occurred in the small town of Picoazà, Ecuador in 1967. A company ran a series of campaign-themed advertisements for a foot powder called Pulvapies. Some of the slogans used included "Vote for any candidate, but if you want well-being and hygiene, vote for Pulvapies", and "For Mayor: Honorable Pulvapies." The foot powder Pulvapies ended up receiving the most votes in the election.[24]
  • In Brazil, until the introduction of electronic voting in 1994, the ballot had no names written for legislative candidates, so many voters would protest by voting on fictional characters or religious figures. However, those votes were not considered because Brazilian law stipulates that every person must be affiliated to a political party to take office.

Pop culture

  • In the 1980 U.S. Presidential election, rock star Joe Walsh ran a mock write-in campaign, promising to make his song "Life's Been Good" the new national anthem if he won, and running on a platform of "Free Gas for Everyone." Though Walsh was not old enough to actually assume the office, he wanted to raise public awareness of the election. (In 1992, Walsh purportedly ran for vice-president, in his song "Vote For Me", a track on his album Songs for a Dying Planet, which was released that year.)


  1. ^ See, for example, Section 1-4-1101, Colorado Revised Statutes (2008)
  2. ^ Wheaton, Sarah (February 25, 2008). "Nader to Run, Citing Events of 2004 Race". New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/25/us/politics/25nader.html. 
  3. ^ a b c Ken Rudin (2006-08-23). "What Happens If Lieberman Wins". National Public Radio. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5698889. Retrieved 2006-09-03. 
  4. ^ Johnson, Alan (2006-05-03). "Wilson wins primary as write-in candidate". The Columbus Dispatch. http://www.columbusdispatch.com/news-story.php?story=183395. Retrieved 2006-06-30. 
  5. ^ "Election Results for the March 2004 Primary" (PDF). California Secretary of State. http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/sov/2004_primary/congress.pdf. 
  6. ^ a b "Write-ins give Welch GOP nomination". The Barre Montpelier Times Agnus. September 18, 2008. http://www.timesargus.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080918/NEWS02/809180364. 
  7. ^ "2005 General Election results for Hunterdon County". http://www.co.hunterdon.nj.us/election/2005general/readington.htm#committee. 
  8. ^ Reprint from The Huntington County News
  9. ^ "Waterbury mayor to wage write-in campaign". http://www.wtnh.com/Global/story.asp?S=3947552&nav=3YeX. 
  10. ^ The Waterbury Observer - The Write Stuff
  11. ^ News Channel 8 / 2005 Vote Election Results
  12. ^ Kazanjian O'Brien, Dolores (2005-04-01). "Baxter Estates Mayor James Neville "Stunned" by Write-in Defeat". Port Washington News. http://www.antonnews.com/portwashingtonnews/2005/04/01/news/elections.html. Retrieved 2006-06-30. 
  13. ^ [1]
  14. ^ [2]
  15. ^ School Board Write-in Campaign
  16. ^ "'Fight' seen in California's governor's race". CNN. 2002-03-06. http://archives.cnn.com/2002/ALLPOLITICS/03/06/california.primary/index.html. Retrieved 2006-03-30. 
  17. ^ Orange County Registrar of Voters Election Results for March 5, 2002
  18. ^ Orange County Registrar of Voters Election Results for November 5, 2002
  19. ^ Srisavasdi, Rachanee (2003-10-30). "Case against ex-judge Kline gutted". Irvine World News. http://www.irvineworldnews.com/Astories/oct30/kline.htm. Retrieved 2006-06-30. 
  20. ^ Dougherty, Michael Brendan (October 1, 2009). "A Reversal of Fortune for Interim Independence Party". The Putnam County Courier. http://www.putnamcountycourier.com/news/2009-10-01/Front_Page/A_Reversal_of_Fortune_for_Interim_Independence_Par.html. Retrieved Nov 27, 2009. 
  21. ^ ABC News: Donald Duck's a Big Bird in Politics
  22. ^ BBC News | UK Politics | Livingstone threatens write-in campaign
  23. ^ Skämtet gjorde Jonas till sd-politiker - GT.se - Expressen.se - Sveriges bästa nyhetssajt!
  24. ^ Urban Legends Reference Page: (Politics) Political Podiatry

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