Even if everyone writes in Batman for president, he still won’t win
Jesus Christ, Willie Nelson, Bill Clinton, Colin Powell, and Big Bird. These are some of the names that 136,040 U.S. voters wrote in for president in the 2012 election. And there will likely be more write-ins than ever in the 2016 election.
Since Google began tracking searches in 2004, the company has never seen so many Americans searching about writing in a presidential candidate instead of voting for someone on the ballot — not surprising given the level of dislike for both candidates this year.
In one week alone earlier this month, Google searches for “write in” spiked by 2,800 percent over the previous week, lead by users in Vermont (home of former presidential contender Bernie Sanders) and Utah (the nation’s most heavily Mormon state). The spike happened after the leak of a 2005 “Access Hollywood” video in which GOP nominee Donald Trump bragged about sexually assaulting women, which prompted several Republican senators and governors to say they’d write in vice presidential nominee Mike Pence or another conservative instead of checking the box for Trump.
But in most states, that kind of vote won’t count.
Although most ballots in the United States have a write-in option, there are layers of bureaucratic red tape that prevent most of those votes from counting. In over 30 states, a write-in candidate must register weeks ahead of time, and seven states don’t allow write-in votes at all.
In California, write-in candidates must have notarized paperwork from each of the state’s 55 representatives in the Electoral College. In Illinois, they need to file notarized papers in 105 counties and cities. Nevada doesn’t allow any write-in candidates but allows voters to select “None of These Candidates.” In the state’s 2014 Democratic gubernatorial primary, voters were so disillusioned that “None” won with 30 percent of the vote.
Whether the votes count or not, hundreds of thousands of Americans cast these protest votes in defiance of their options. With the two most unpopular presidential candidates ever and record-breaking Google searches, there could be more write-in votes this election than any in American history.
Conservative alternative Evan McMullin, a Utah Independent and a Mormon, is relying on write-in ballots for his long-shot candidacy since he made it onto the ballot in only 11 states. He, unlike Jesus Christ, has registered as a write-in in many states. Feel free to write in a savior on November 8; just know it probably won’t count.