Another truly American custom


It seems to me that some folks figure either I already know the answers to all their questions or I can somehow get them – regardless of the subject. I suppose they think that since I’m fully retired I have lotsa time to dig into stuff and then can share the results in this column. After all, if readers think something is important or interesting to them, then they also think it’s likely important or interesting to other people as well, right?

I’ve been asked what I know about all kinds of things ranging from my opinion of “Greene CATS” – it’s our county public transportation system – to the proper way to fly the flag on Memorial Day. The flag is first raised to full staff in the morning then immediately lowered to half staff until noon when it’s raised to full staff for the remainder of the day before being lowered at sunset.

Well, it’s happened again. Yep, several folks have asked me about “write-in” candidates for public office – is there a legal provision for “write-in” candidates, who can be a write-in candidate, how it’s done, and stuff like that. I kinda figure the reason behind the inquiries is that there are supporters of a couple of people who are not on an official slate of candidates in the upcoming election but, according to these supporters, would be better nominees than those already on the ballot.

The idea apparently being considered is to mount a “grass roots” campaign to exercise the “write-in” procedure to get their candidate(s) elected. Well, in response to these inquiries I asked several people what they knew about write-in voting and, guess what? I found almost total ignorance – so I figured I’d “look into” the subject.

First of all a write-in candidate in an election is one whose name does not appear on the ballot, but for whom voters may vote nonetheless by writing in the person’s name. The system, which is almost totally confined to elections in the United States – another truly American custom -, has had some remarkable results.

According to Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia: in 1928, Herbert Hoover won the Republican Massachusetts presidential primary on write-ins, polling 100,279 votes; in 1944, Thomas Dewey won the Republican Pennsylvania presidential primary with 146,706 write-ins and the Oregon Republican presidential primary with 50,001; and in probably the most impressive victory by write-in vote, in 1952, Dwight Eisenhower won the Republican Massachusetts presidential primary with 254,898 write-ins. That number is really remarkable, wouldn’t you say?

Our state voting procedures and rules, including provisions for write-in candidates, are covered in Section 3513 of the Revised Code. First among these is: “A write-in candidate must meet all of the eligibility requirements for the office

being sought.” which ensures only those qualified to hold a specific office may be write-in candidates – and not everyone meets these requirements.

OK, so what else does the state code say about write-in candidates? “A write-in space shall be provided on the ballot for every office, except in an election for which the board of elections has received no valid declaration of intent to be a write-in candidate under this section. Write-in votes shall not be counted for any candidate who has not filed a declaration of intent to be a write-in candidate pursuant to this section. A qualified person who has filed a declaration of intent may receive write-in votes at either a primary or general election.” (R. C Section 3515)

Didja get the restriction on filing by write-in candidates? Here’s what the code says: “Any person wishing to be a write-in candidate must file a Declaration of Intent to be a Write-in Candidate … with the appropriate county board of elections.

… [A] candidate shall file a declaration of intent to be a write-in candidate before four p.m. of the seventy-second day preceding the election at which such candidacy is to be considered.” That means a declaration of intent to be a write-in candidate in the upcoming general election must have been filed not later than 4 p.m. Aug. 24, 2015. Oops! Sorry ‘bout that but the “grass roots” movement just got stopped in its tracks. Voters can’t simply write in a person’s name on the ballot.

Well, it sounded like a good idea – trying to elect someone by merely writing in that person’s name on the ballot – but the rules regarding write-in candidates in our state are very specific.

You know, since there is no provision for voting “against” a candidate, about the only option left for those who don’t like the candidate(s) on the ballot is to leave the appropriate portion of the ballot blank thereby indicating the voter’s displeasure. And a “non-vote” is another truly American custom. At least that’s how it seems to me.

By Bill Taylor

Bill Taylor is a Greene County Daily columnist and area resident and may be contacted at [email protected].

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