[EM] Write-in Candidate Rules

Abd ul-Rahman Lomax abd at lomaxdesign.com
Fri Dec 26 18:10:47 PST 2008

At 06:40 PM 12/26/2008, James Gilmour wrote:
>Subject changed: was > Subject: Re: [EM] Why I think IRV isn't a 
>serious alternative 2
>Jonathan Lundell  > Sent: Friday, December 26, 2008 5:58 PM
> > California write-in rules lie somewhere in that gap. Here's a sample:
> > http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/cand_qual_wi.pdf
> > These requirements must be met in order for write-in votes to be  counted.
>Having read quickly through these rules, I don't see clearly how a 
>"write-in candidate" is different from a "nominated candidate".
>Both must formally register their candidacy by the due date, all the 
>information is public before the election, both must keep
>proper registered accounts of their election expenses.  There is 
>nothing informal about this process.
>Maybe the rules on "write-ins" are quite different in other States?

Those were rules only for State elections, not for local ones within 
the state. (That is, they covered the elections to federal office, 
which are, in the U.S., governed by the rules of each state, with 
only a little federal intervention, the federal offices involved 
being Senate and House of Representatives elections, plus they 
govern, in what *might* be a recent addition, I suspect it but have 
not verified it, state legislative office (in California, the State 
Senate, which represents counties, and the State Assembly, which 
represents voting districts based on population.)

City and other local elections aren't covered at all.

Given that some "write-in" candidates there, can, by the rules, be 
placed on the ballot, the meaning of "write-in" in those rules is 
rather strange. By the way, those aren't the rules, they are an 
explanatory document, and the actual rules, if there is conflict, are 
what are binding.

You are right. Under those rules, which require a petition signed by 
a minimum number of electors, these are really nominated candidates, 
but they may not be on the ballot. The cost of nomination, though, is 
very small. No fee. 40 signatures? That isn't difficult to get, if 
one has *any* chance of relevance. One can get that even while being 
totally irrelevant. Stand out in a mall and smile at people! Friend 
of mine did it to run for Congress.

However, the strongest restriction there is the requirement that the 
declaration of write-in candidacy be filed, for the general election 
(first Tuesday in November), between September 6 and October 19. It 
also appears to be illegal to accept campaign contributions prior to 
filing the declaration of intent (except that up to $1000 *may* be 
spent from personal funds), so this puts some rather severe 
limitations on write-ins that could rule out the most meaningful of them.

There are a lot of Americans who think that campaign finance "reform" 
actually makes the situation worse. Those who are in power have 
generally made sure that finance reform doesn't serious impact their 
own situations.... My own conclusion is that in a sane system, 
campaign finance would be almost moot, and so tying people's hands 
isn't particularly useful, if they want to waste their money, let 
them! The problem is that in the absence of good and trustworthy 
mechanisms for voters to be advised, media and media access become 
crucial. And, of course, there are *huge* vested interests behind all this.

However, creating the mechanisms for good public advice doesn't 
actually confront any of these interests, not directly, and even the 
appearance of attacking such mechanisms would create serious negative 
publicity and probably advance the cause greatly, so ... I don't 
expect any serious opposition except the normal inertia and cynicism, 
the belief that it's all impossible, so why bother trying....

I know for a fact that write-ins in the town election in the small 
Massachusetts town I lived in until recently do not require any kind 
of registration, and my *impression* was always that this was the 
general rule. But, obviously, I was wrong about California with some 
elections, and I lived there for most of my adult life. Never wrote 
in a candidate's name, though, first time I did it was in that local 
election here that I've described. My vote was not counted, but that 
was improper. It could have been challenged, if we had cared enough.

As might be typical of many small towns, though, if we had cared 
enough, we'd simply have asked the Board of Selectmen to appoint the 
candidate, who happened to be my wife, in the absence of a legal 
winner. (There were quite a few other single write-in votes, none 
with two. Except we know my wife got at least three or four, maybe a 
few more.) It was actually offered. She decided to decline, having 
reconsidered her availability.

Why write-in votes? Well, in small towns, it's often difficult to 
find anyone willing to run for some minor offices.... This was for 
the town representative to the regional School Committee. Nobody had 
filed as a candidate by the time the ballots were prepared.

More information about the Election-Methods mailing list