Elections

Exploring Camden County’s Presidential Write-Ins

Something that’s become tradition for me after election day is looking at the write-in report the Camden County Board of Elections puts out with every general election summary report. You get a unique look into the psyche of the electorate when they have a blank space to put in their best hopes and dreams, or perhaps whatever they’re randomly thinking about at the time. Some people wrote in protest votes of people they thought should have won their party’s nominations. Some people wrote in cartoon characters. Some just wrote messages to the poll workers, bless their volunteer hearts.

Looking through the data, you quickly learn that though the keyboard for writing in candidates is straightforward, it appears to be a bridge too far to correctly type in your candidate’s name; the typos in some names range from a few letters off to downright awful butcherings. (And one thing that’s especially clear is that the arrow buttons do not mean “space” in many people’s minds.) Perhaps the aging election machines need a looking over by whoever services them.

All told, there were 1,848 total write-in votes just for the office of president over 47 1/2 pages. They appear in all uppercase in the report and I wasn’t about to sentence-case all of them. So without further ado, here’re some notable write-ins and a collection of my favorites.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the two most popular write-ins were the two more visible protest votes against each party’s nominee. BERNIE SANDERS received the most, with 555 votes, and EVAN MCMULLIN received 238. (A few people entered in EVEN MCMULLIN. I like that as an alternate to “even Steven.” “Did the game end 2-2? Let’s call it an Even McMullin.”) The next bunch of top vote-getters include people who didn’t win their party’s primary or those who didn’t run but who people talked about being a better choice. JOHN KASICH got 158, PAUL RYAN got 60, MICHAEL PENCE for 56, MARCO RUBIO got 30, MITT ROMNEY got 26, JOE  BIDEN got 24, JOHN MCCAIN got 21, TED CRUZ got 17, BEN CARSON got 13, RAND PAUL got 11, and JEB BUSH got 10 (poor Jeb! had a bad showing even among write-ins), CARLY FIORINA and CHRIS CHRISTIE each got 5, and JIM WEBB (remember that guy?) got 4.

Some people went through the trouble of typing in a candidate’s name that already appeared on the ballot. GARY JOHNSON, HILLARY CLINTON, DONALD J TRUMP, TED CRUZ, and JILL STEIN all appear in the write-in results, along with my favorite from this category, HILLARY TRUMP.

Then there were politicians or people in the political world who weren’t running at all (and each got under 10 votes): RAND PAUL, COLIN POWELL, RON PAUL, BEN SASSE, RICK SANTORUM, BARACK OBAMA, MICHELLE OBAMA, CONDOLEEZZA RICE, CORY BOOKER, SCOTT WALKER, AL GORE, MIKE HUCKABEE, MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, TULSI GABBARD and ELIZABETH WARREN.

And being dead didn’t stop you from being a write-in. Three people wrote in GEORGE WASHINGTON, and ABE LINCOLIN [sic] and CALVIN COOLIDGE got one vote each.

Then things start to take a turn for the random. I identified a few themes running through the results. There were athletes (CHARLES BARCLAY [sic], CARSON WENTZ, JON RUNYUN, PETE ROSE, MICHAEL TROUT), comedians (JIMMY FALLON, JOHN OLIVER, ELLEN DEGENERES, KEVIN HART), musicians (BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, EDDIE VEDDER, OZZY OSBOURNE, PAT BENATAR, ALICE COOPER), professional wrestlers (JOHN CENA, RIC FLAIR), and the largest group, actors (LIN MANUEL MIRANDA, TOM HANKS THE ACTOR (I love this one for its specificity), ALEC BALDWIN, BETTY WHITE, BILL MURRAY (two votes!), TOM SELLECK (also two votes!). There was perennial hopeful VERMIN SUPREME, and, amazingly, and spelled correctly, VLADIMIR PUTIN (though one might argue we got the next best thing). Though my favorite, out of all these spectacular choices, was GRANDPOP. Let’s all get behind GRANDPOP 2020.

Then there were the fictional characters. These include CTHULU, DONALD DUCK, KERMIT THE FROG, TINKERBELL, BIG BIRD, SNOOPY WWI HERO, SPONGEBOB, OPTIMUS PRIME, KING GHIDORAH (a “film monster that first appeared in the Toho’s 1964 film Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster”), and ICHIGO KUROSAKI (a “fictional character in the Bleach manga series”). MICKEY MOUSE did pretty well, all things considered; he got 14 total votes.

Finally, the category where people just write in random things. There’re some gems. Among them: COMCAST SUCKS, LORD HELP US, “MAY’GOD,HELP,US”, SOUTHPARK, FISH (fish), FUCK YOU, GIANT METEOR (two votes!), NO CONFIDENCE (many votes), GOD/JESUS/JESUS CHRIST, SON OF GOD/HOLY SPIRIT/IN GOD WE TRUST/ALLAH/MARY-MOTHER-OF-GOD/YESHUA THE MESSIAH (lots of people do this), HARAMBE, PEDRO (Vote for Pedro!) (naturally), and one of the best in this category, LUCY THE ELEPHANT.

Phew. It’s exhausting diving into the psyche of the write-in voter, but I’m not alone in my fascination with write-ins. The Courier Post also published a list of the more bizarre write-ins from every level of office, including favorites “Balthazar McNuggets” and the perennial write-in “Flapjacks A. Lobster”.

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