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Senator Lisa Murkowski Weighing Write-in Campaign

Published on September 8, 2010, by in General.

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski is considering whether to be a write-in candidate for re-election in November.  See this story.  Contrary to other published reports, this article correctly notes that voters need not spell “Murkowski” perfectly.  Alaska, and almost all other states, use the “voter intent” standard to determine whether a write-in should count.

Murkowski would also have an advantage over write-in candidates in most other states, because all of Alaska’s vote-counting equipment is uniform across the state.  Any serious write-in candidate for statewide office always needs to advertise, to explain to voters how to cast a write-in vote, but that job is much simpler when the ballot looks the same everywhere in that state.

The largest write-in vote cast for a U.S. Senate general election in Alaska was in 1968, when incumbent U.S. Senator Ernest Gruening lost the Democratic primary but carried on as a write-in in the November election.  The vote in that election was:  Mike Gravel, Democratic nominee, 36,527; Elmer Rasmuson, Republican nominee, 30,286; Gruening, write-in, 14,118 (17.4%).  Alaskans also cast substantial numbers of write-in votes in November 1998 in the gubernatorial race.  The vote in that election was:  Tony Knowles, Democrat, 112,879; John Lindauer, Republican, 39,331; Ray Metcalfe, Republican Moderate Party, 13,540; Erica Jacobsson, Green, 6,618; Sylvia Sullivan, Alaskan Independence, 4,238; and 43,571 scattered write-ins, most for Robin Taylor.

7 Responses

  1. Brandon Magoon

    A state that counts write in votes? What insanity is this? Don’t they know they’re supposed to ignore those silly voters? Pennsylvania needs to set these people straight.

  2. Michael

    A note from the 1954 South Carolina election that put Strom Thurmond in the U.S. Senate. They didn’t have to have Thurmond’s name spelled exactly right, however it did have to be written in the exact place on the ballot. Also, it had to be written in, they couldn’t use stickers with the candidates name on them that some states allow.

  3. Richard

    Write-in candidates have been elected in November to Congress on 7 occasions: US Senate in South Carolina 1954 and California 1946 (for a short term); US House in Massachusetts 1918, California 1930, Arkansas 1958, New Mexico 1980, and California 1982.

  4. Jim Riley

    #3, The 1946 California election was a senatorial special election, held concurrently with the general election for the full term. Hiram Johnson died in August 1945, with about 17 months remaining on his 6-year term. William Knowland was temporarily appointed to fill the seat.

    15 months later, on November 5, 1946, a general election was held for the full term (1947-1953). Concurrently, there was a special election for the remaining two months of the 1941-1947 term.

    California apparently did not know how to conduct a special election 15 months after a vacancy occurred so that the special election was write-in only, and attracted about 20% of the votes of the general election contest. Knowland won both elections.

    Perhaps taking a hint from the nickname of Prohibition candidate Douglas “Wrong Way” Corrigan, California now has ballots for special elections (see 1992 election of Dianne Feinstein, after Pete Wilson resigned to become governor).

    In 1930, Rep. Charles Curry (Sr) died on October 10, less than a month before the general election, and after having secured the nomination of both Republican and Democratic parties. California did not have a procedure for filling nomination vacancies, and Curry’s son, Charles Curry, Jr. was elected as a write-in candidate.

    Under current law, if Curry, Sr. had been re-elected posthumously, the seat would have been treated as being vacant, and a special election held.

    A better approach would be to do as is done in Britain, and simply void the election, and hold a special election with an entire new set of nominations.

    The 1980 New Mexico election was similar, in that the incumbent representative died 3 months before the election, after having been renominated. New Mexico apparently did not permit the Republicans to replace their nominee. Joe Skeen won as a write-in candidate, defeating both a Democrat, and the deceased incumbent’s widow who also ran as a write-in candidate.

    The California 1982 and Massachusetts 1918 elections were both cases of sore losers running in the general election after having been defeated in their party’s primary.

    Peter Tague was seated only after winning his contest of the election of John F. Fitzgerald (JFK’s grandfather), where the US House found such fraudulent voting patterns in 3 precincts that they threw all votes from those precincts out. It seems possible that the same had occurred in the primary, so perhaps Tague was the legitimate nominee in the first place.

    I think that leaves you Arkansas 1958, if you choose to claim it.

  5. Michael

    The California 1982 election was less a “sore loser” than a “bad winner”. The winner of the GOP primary won with 16 percent of the vote after a lot of mud slinging and questionable statements. The candidate who got second place got a letter from the 14 other candidates (places 3-16) asking him to run as a write candidate, which he did, defeating both the Republican nominee and the Democrat.

  6. Michael

    Update: the next to last line should be “write-in” and I can’t remember any of the names.

  7. Derek

    Write-in candidacies are quite interesting! I could imagine what would happen if in 2012 we have a third party or independent candidate who is on the ballot of the Libertarian, Green, Constitution, Independence and Reform parties as a write-in and gets endorsed by all of them!

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