Frank Gagnon, 18, of Pawtucket, R.I., decided to run for mayor as a independent write-in candidate, while he waits to start college in January. Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who lost the Republican nomination for her seat in September’s primary, informed the Republican Party leadership she is running as a write-in candidate in the general election.
In Maryland, Julian Earl Jones has decided to return in the November general election as a write-in candidate for Baltimore County’s 4th District Council seat.
Baltimore County’s primary election contest for the 4th District Council seat was an interesting one. Incumbent Kenneth Oliver ran in a field of seven candidates. He won the primary, receiving only 28.96 percent of the vote, with Jones, the closest contender, receiving 28.29 percent of the vote. Leronia A. Josey finished with the third highest percentage of votes in the district with 25.63 percent.
A total of 98 votes prevented Jones from winning the council seat, but it made the idea of a write-in campaign more enticing. With slightly over 70 percent of the votes going to other candidates, Jones said, “There were a few thousand votes divided amongst the other four candidates, so where do they go?”
After getting support and encouragement from Baltimore County residents who wanted him to stay in it and fight for the seat, Jones decided to go for it, indicating he wouldn’t be doing it if he didn’t believe he had a chance to win.
Jones entering his name in the general election might be the easy part of this uphill political battle. Write-in voting might not be as simple as it seems.
According to the Maryland State Board of Elections, Maryland voters cast their ballots using a touch-screen voting system manufactured by Diebold Election Systems Inc. Voters make selections by touching the screen and may review and change selections before officially casting their ballot.
To write-in the name of a candidate, voters touch the box to the left of the word “WRITE-IN” fpr the appropriate race. A QWERTY keyboard appears, with a text box to display what is typed in as the write-in choice. The system will prompt you to type in the last name, then the first name of teh candidate and then to cast your ballot.
“Candidates may circulate and publish information containing the instructions on how to cast your write-in vote, including the spelling of their name,” said Baltimore City’s 43rd District State Sen. Joan Carter Conway.
Jones said he researched the process for write-in voting and discussed the procedures with Baltimore County Election Board officials. He said votes are counted with an effort to honor the intent of the voter. So a voter with his last name or his whole name, will be counted for him. But the criteria for winning is the same – getting more votes than the other candidate.
Write-in campaigns are more difficult, but not impossible. In 1960, John F. Kennedy won the Democratic Pennsylvania presidential primary election with 183,073 write-in votes and later won the Democratic Massachusetts presidential primary with 91,607 write-in votes. Filmmaker Michael Moore led a campaign during the 2000 United States Congressional elections to have voters submit a fichus tree as a write-in candidate.
“Write-in campaigns are very hard to do,” Jones said.
Jones is already hard at work spreading the word to 4th District residents that he is a write-in candidate. “It will be an uphill battle,” Jones said, “however, the residents have shown me nothing but support and have encouraged me to continue to fight for our community. Call it overtime or whatever you want, I’m going to fight.”