Write-ins often turn into wasted votes

By Emily LeCoz / NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Go ahead and list Mickey Mouse as a write-in candidate at the next city, state or county election.
But don’t expect anyone to count it.
Unless the fictional character – or any real person for that matter – is the official substitute for another candidate, the name isn’t recorded and doesn’t affect election results.
Yet in every race, most county election officials say they see a handful of ballots with write-in names. In Tuesday’s special election for District 6 state senator, for example, nine people scrawled in an original choice.
The names didn’t appear in the final vote tally and didn’t affect the legal candidates’ percentages.
“You see people being funny,” said Union County Election Commissioner Frances Dunlap. “I’ve seen that once or twice. They might put Mickey Mouse. They are not counted.”
Tippah County Deputy Clerk Crystal Graves said some people write in their own names. Others write “anybody but” and then list the candidate on the ballot.
County election officials record the number of write-in votes for each race but do not tabulate them.
According to state law, write-in candidates are permitted only as the legitimate substitute of a candidate who has died, resigned, withdrawn or been removed from the race.
That applies to every race, whether it’s a primary, special or general election at any level of government, said Pamela Weaver, communications director of the secretary of state’s office.
But every election ballot includes a space for write-in candidates, whether or not one is needed for that race. It’s there just in case a write-in does become eligible.
And that’s perhaps where the confusion occurs, since some people see the space and assume write-ins are allowed in all elections.
The most recent Lee County election in which a write-in candidate was accepted happened in 1995, said Carol Horton, who has worked for the county circuit clerk the past two decades.
“It was Dennis Malone, the 4th District supervisor,” she said. “He qualified for office and had an opponent, and he died, so his son Mike Malone carried on a write-in campaign.”
Malone had captured enough votes in the primary race to enter a runoff against Tommie Lee Ivy, but Ivy ultimately won. He’s still the District 4 supervisor today.
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@journalinc.com.