Saturday, October 13, 2012

Why Illinois write-in votes only sometimes count

UPDATE 11/7/16: For information about eligible write-in candidates in the 2016 general election, see this post.

Even casual observers of the election scene understand, on some level, that it takes quite a bit of effort -- and paper! -- to qualify for the ballot in Illinois.

But perhaps very few realize that, in Illinois, even write-in candidates have to file papers in order to have their votes counted.

The operative Illinois Statutes are §§17-16.1 and 18-9.1 of the Election Code (10 ILCS 5/17-16.1 and 10 ILCS 5/18-9.1). You may think your neighbor Bob would make a better state representative than anything the Democrats or Republicans have on offer this year, but unless Bob has filed a notarized declaration of intent with the appropriate election authority "not later than 61 days prior to the election," your vote for Bob won't count.

On the other hand, recent news accounts (here, for example, or here) have quoted Anthony W. Williams, a write-in candidate for Congress in the south suburban 2nd Congressional District (where Jesse Jackson, Jr. is the incumbent). Rev. Williams has filed a declaration of candidacy, and votes for him will be counted.

Election attorney James Scanlon confirmed that at least one purpose of the write-in laws is to stop public records from being cluttered with votes for Donald Duck and the like. In response to an email inquiry from FWIW about how write-in votes are counted, Scanlon advised, "At the end of election day and the close of the polls, the judges will remove the paper optical scan ballots from the ballot box. The optical scanner is designed to detect whether there is a marking on the line reserved for write-in candidates and to deposit those ballots into a separate bin in the front of the ballot box. Judges of election are instructed to remove these ballots and review them for valid write-in votes. The judges then record the results of the valid write-in votes on a certification form, which is returned to the Board. Any votes recorded on a touchscreen are automatically tallied and shown on the total tape generated after the polls close."

A number of individuals have qualified as write-ins in Illinois for President and Vice-President of the United States. Among these are Jill Reed and Tom Cary, the candidates of the Twelve Vision Party, which promotes "The Prime Law, the three-thousand-year-old-secret" (which would presumably be revealed should Reed and Cary win); Jerry White and Phyllis Scherrer, the candidates of the Trotsky-ite Socialist Equity Party; Virgil Goode and Jim Clymer, the candidates of the Constitution Party, which wants to dramatically restrict immigration and even deny citizenship to children of foreign nationals born on American soil; and Ross C. "Rocky" Anderson, the candidate of the Justice Party, which bills itself as "a grassroots, broad-based, real political alternative to the corporate-controlled Democratic and Republican parties."

Others qualifying for write-in votes for President (or Vice-President) in Illinois are:
  • Paul Chehade (Steve McAllister);
  • Stephen Durham (Christina Lopez) ;
  • Tom Hoefling (Jonathan D. Ellis);
  • Richard Duncan;
  • Michael W. Hawkins;
  • Nelson Lee Keyton, Jr.;
  • Dennis Knill;
  • Barbara A. Prokopich;
  • Cecil James Roth;
  • Beverly Simmons-Miller;
  • James T. Struck;
  • Mary Ann Tomkins Segal; and
  • Roy Wayne Tyree.
No individuals filed timely declarations as write-in candidates for any Cook County judicial office.

Information about presidential candidates obtained from September 4 and September 25 articles on Mental Floss.


Welch's Rarebits said...

I suspect the real reason is that the two major political parties want no competition. I remember several years ago being embarrassed that no candidate was running for Democratic Committeeman so I wrote my own name in. I got a call a couple days later from a very chagrined county elections clerk who indicated I had actually won, but because I had not filed the appropriate papers, the vote did not count. Silly nonsense.

B. G. Moshier said...

As a permanently disabled voter, I vote by absentee ballot. While reviewing the ballot for the upcoming 2014 primary ballot, I noticed no write-in slot available for offices where only one person is running. Only those offices with 2 or more people running even had room for a write-in.

One obvious benefit to this law is to keep the size of the ballot "small." If every office had to have room for a write-in candidate, well, it would always be much longer than it is today. What I don't understand given the write-in law, why even have room for a write-in UNLESS at least one person filed in time. I mean it would save even more room and cut down on even more "Donald Duck."

Of course, I don't see the law as being fair. Someone should be able to decide to run a write-in campaign even a few days in advance.

I do, though, see the need for registration given more than one person may have the same name. Two observations:

1) It should be easier to be a write-in candidate.
2) Election laws must be fair, but as we all know they rarely are fair - especially in several Southern USA states, Ohio, and other states.