Value of the Write-In Candidate

A generic ballot photo

As Senator Sanders’ campaign comes to a close, several of my friends have expressed disgust with Secretary Clinton on social media. Some have suggested jumping ship to support Donald Trump in the General Election, and others have argued that they have to support the Democratic nominee, because Republicans. In their dismay, I’ve seen a plethora of people vowing and encouraging others to write in Senator Sanders’ name.

I’m not one to blindly follow without question – be it in religion, education, or popular internet memes – and politics has been no different. I believe that we should question the information we are given to digest, ask ourselves why we believe what we believe, and challenge the status quo. And perhaps most importantly, we should act on principle. Likewise, I don’t believe that we should support a presidential candidate simply because we affiliate ourselves with the same political party.

That being said, writing in a name during the General Election this November is a complete and utter waste of your vote. Don’t misunderstand what I am saying here – I’m not encouraging you not to do it (in January and February I swore I would write in Senator Rand Paul’s name at the polls) – I’m telling you it won’t accomplish anything.

Let’s compare a write-in and the third party option. The third party candidate this election cycle, Gary Johnson, has access to the ballot in all fifty states. He’s rising in the polls, and is potentially on track to participate in the Presidential Debates (the Federal Election Commission requires a candidate to “have a level of support of at least 15 percent of the national electorate as determined by five selected national public opinion polling organizations” in order to be in the polls).

You can write a candidate in, but in doing so, you are only acting a spoiler for whichever party it is you hope to defeat (in this case, many Bernie Sanders supporters hope to defeat Hillary Clinton with a write in vote). Obviously, if you’re a Bernie Sanders supporter, you support neither Clinton nor Trump. In this case, you are actually throwing your vote away, or essentially not voting.

The three candidates that have access to the ballot in all fifty states are Johnson, Trump, and Clinton. No other candidate currently has this potential. Sanders supporters aren’t supporting any of those candidates, but, hope to, by some miracle, get enough of the vote to get Sanders the necessary Electoral College votes. How do you expect this to happen when he couldn’t even get enough votes to gain the Democratic nomination?

This is never going to happen. Most people, no matter how much you talk about it, won’t write a name in. They’re going to assume that because the name isn’t on the ballot, that individual is no longer an option. Not only would Sanders supporters have to garner enough support from members of the Democratic Party, they would also have to sway Republicans and Libertarians, and independent voters to write a name in. This is simply not going to happen. Historically, a write-in candidate has never won in the General Election.

Even the proverbial underdog this cycle has more of a chance of being elected than a write-in, simply because of the fact that his name is actually on the ballot. Instead of writing in a name, which has the equivalent effect of simply not voting, consider doing some research and finding out if there are any viable candidates that you can actually support that have a chance of winning the election. A great resource is, an unbiased political quiz website that will tell you who you agree with the most on the issues. Not only will this resource list the three major presidential candidates, but it also lists the other, lesser known presidential candidates, such as Jill Stein (Green Party) and Chris Keniston (Veterans Party of America).

Ultimately, it comes down to a matter of conscience and principle. Do what you think is right on November 8th. If you truly feel that you must write in a name because none of the candidates are qualified to sit in the Oval Office, then vote your conscience and write a name in. But if you truly want to make your vote count, and more importantly, not feel like you’ve “thrown away” your vote, then for a candidate that’s going to be on the ballot.

In Libertatem.

About Rick Matheny 3 Articles
Aspiring political activist and a Navy veteran who is extremely passionate about liberty and freedom. Currently travels a lot for work and loves to write in his spare time. Some of his influences include Judge Napolitano, Rand Paul, and Kate Dalley.
Contact: Twitter
  • Rick_Sincere

    In most cases, write-in votes are never counted. Virginia election law, for instance, requires that write-in votes be counted and identified only if the number of write-ins amounts to 5 percent or more of the total votes cast in that contest.

    It is not true that nobody has won a general election as a write-in candidate. Strom Thurmond was first elected to the US Senate as a write-in. (Of course, that was more than 60 years ago.)

    • Rick Matheny

      Thanks for the catch! What I meant by no one has won a general election, and I should have specified, was that no-one had won the presidential election.