In 1960, when John F. Kennedy sought the Democratic nomination for president, he won the Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts primaries with only write-in votes, gaining the selection of his political party and then going on to win the highest government office in the United States. (2012. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum website. Click here for details.)
He also showed, without a doubt, how write-in votes were, and still can be, one of the most advantageous tools for any candidate seeking to hold a voter-elected government position in the United States. The figures from the election, four years ago, showed that quite a few voters weren’t satisfied with the choices for president and yielded their votes to write-in candidates. According to the statistics posted by the Federal Election Commission, 112,597 votes were written in for non-affiliated candidates of the 2008 presidential election. (2009. Federal Election Commission website)
That number of votes was not enough for any of those nominees to clench a victory for the Presidency, especially when Barack Obama received nearly 70,000,000 votes in 2008 while McCain collected close to 60,000,000 votes. This tally shows that the power of write-in votes is about as strong as an ant battling an elephant in a grassy field. So can write-in votes truly make an impact on a presidential election? It’s hard to know. With the household familiarity and advertisement power of Republicans and Democrats, it will take a huge write-in campaign on a candidate’s part to incite the voters to make an impact with this method of voting.
So what should electors know about write-in votes if they want their political candidates to stay in the race for president, or any election? First thing, not all states acknowledge write-in voting for presidential election. There are nine states that do not allow for candidates to be written down on the ballot. They are Arkansas, Hawaii, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and South Dakota. Mississippi also does not allow for write-ins unless the death of a previously registered candidate has occurred. This can cause a terrific setback for a presidential contender.
Secondly, Alabama, Iowa, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wyoming, are states where voters can write in a candidate’s name on the ballot, the day of the election, and the nominee will receive the vote. (2008. US Presidential Write-In Candidate Requirements For Each State Website. Click here for more info.) If he or she runs a strong campaign in these states, then the possibility of taking these states from a registered political candidate is feasible.
And lastly, the remaining states that do accept write-in nominees require each candidate to register with the state before he, or she, can obtain votes from constituents. Some of these states are Tennessee, California, Florida, and Massachusetts. A declaration of candidacy, or a declaration of intent, must be filed with the state by the person running for office as a write-in contender, along with other requirements set up by each state’s legislature. Once a nominee handles this aspect of their candidacy, come Election Day, every vote will be counted for that contender. Afterwards, it is up to the voter to confirm the candidate is registered or the vote could be null and void. (2008. US Presidential Write-In Candidate Requirements For Each State Website. Click here for details.)
But can knowing all this information be enough to leave an impact on a national election using write-in votes? The data above is just one part of the solution; the other part is the candidate, himself or herself. A campaign has to be waged so the people recognize the write-in nominee and actually vote for the candidate. No easy feat when the Hooves and the Trunks dominate most, if not all, communications mediums in this country. Still technology is a great instrument when used creatively, to help any candidate do the unthinkable.
Whatever is in store for the write-in candidates of 2012, they need to know which states can help make their campaigns stronger or break them. Voters also need to know how to make sure their mark for president counts. No matter if the nominee is a Democrat, Republican, Independent, or just plain “Joe Plumber.” No matter if the vote has to written in or checked off, Americans should know how to make each vote they cast have an impact.