News From Terre Haute, Indiana

November 8, 2012

Vigo ballots saw lengthy list of presidential candidates

Howard Greninger
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — While most voters on Tuesday knew the names of Democrat President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney, there was a long list of other presidential candidates on the Indiana ballot.

They were write-in candidates and Indiana had 16 names for presidents, along with two write-in candidates for U.S. senator and even a write-in for Indiana governor.

Write-in candidates for president included names such as Virgil H. Goode Jr., a former Virginia representative who ran for the Constitution Party, and independent Randall Terry, founder of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue.

Others included Jill Stein of the Green Party, Christina Lopez of the Freedom Socialist Party and Richard Duncan, an independent candidate from Aurora, Ohio, who has been a certified write-in presidential candidate three times since 2004. In 2008, he collected 3,902 votes.

Vigo County had 156 ballots cast for write-in candidates for president, not enough to change the outcome of the presidential race in Vigo County between Obama and Romney, which had a difference of 339 votes.

Obama received 19,707 votes or 49.27 percent of the vote, while Romney received 19,368 votes, or 48.42 percent. Final vote totals will not be certified by the Vigo County Election Board until Nov. 16.

Indiana has allowed write-in ballots since 1990 and initially write-in candidates had no requirements. Nowadays, candidates are required to be certified as write-in candidates prior to an election. At least 43 states allow write-in candidates.

“They had no impact this year and basically write-in candidates almost never do,” said Andy Downs, director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics at Indiana University/Purdue University at Fort Wayne.

“You may find where a write-in candidate [has an impact] in a race for a fairly small jurisdiction, like a school board,” Downs said. “For some candidates, their intention is to mount a good campaign. But if you can’t get enough signatures to get yourself on the ballot as an independent candidate, then you probably don’t have the capacity to run an effective campaign, because the skill set is basically the same. You got to get a bunch of people to agree that you should be able to do something.”

There are rare exceptions.

In 1954, former South Carolina Gov. Strom Thurmond, at age 51, ran as a write-in candidate after then Democrat Sen. Burnet Maybank died unexpectedly. With time running out, the Democrat Party’s state executive committee designated its own candidate, instead of holding a special primary. That spurred Thurmond to capitalize on a public outrage and won with 63 percent of the vote. He changed his party affiliation to Republican in 1964.

Thurmond became the first person elected to the U.S. Senate as a write-in candidate.

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski became the second. While the incumbent, Murkowski ran as a write-in candidate in Alaska in 2010 when the state’s Republicans chose Tea Party candidate Joe Miller as their party nominee. She won the election by more than 10,000 votes.

Vigo County had 43 ballots for U.S. senator and 18 for Indiana governor — write-in candidate Donnie Harold Harris of Indianapolis.

Vigo County has not yet tabulated the write-in ballots, so exact numbers for each candidate will not be known until Nov. 16. Even then, some of the write-in ballots may be thrown out if cast for uncertified candidates or characters such as Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck, said Vigo County Clerk Patricia Mansard.

And the county had 145 write-in votes for school board, however, there were no certified write-in candidates for school board.

“We had contested races for school board in the past and it is remarkable this time we did not,” Mansard said. “People do tend to want choices. Maybe this is their little way of saying, hey, I don’t like not having choices.”

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at (812) 231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com.