RICHMOND — If you can’t bring yourself to vote for either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump in November, you can always write in your presidential candidate of choice.
Just don’t expect it to count.
Write-in votes for president aren’t counted in Virginia unless the candidate has declared the candidacy and filed a slate of electors with state elections officials.
“There is a write-in space on the ballot, but unless the candidate has adhered to proper procedures” as set forth in Section 24.2-644 of the Code of Virginia, “those write-ins don’t count,” said Martin Mash, confidential policy adviser to the Virginia Department of Elections.
Under section 24.2-644 (C) of the Code of Virginia, “Write-in votes for president and vice president shall be counted only for candidates who have filed a joint declaration of intent to be write-in candidates for the offices with the secretary of the State Board [of Elections] not less than ten days before the date of the presidential election.”
A write-in candidate for president must file a list of 13 electors — the equivalent of Virginia’s 13 electoral votes — one for each of the 11 congressional districts, plus two for the state’s U.S. Senate seats.
About two-thirds of the states have such formal requirements for presidential write-in campaigns, said Richard Winger, editor of Ballot Access News, an elections website in San Francisco.
After all, “the state needs to know” who the candidate’s electors are, just in case the write-in candidate wins.
That’s unlikely, but in recent years several long-shot presidential candidates have gone to the trouble of formally mounting certified write-in bids in Virginia. Their results are itemized in tallies recorded by the Federal Election Commission.
In 2012, Virginians cast more than 3.85 million votes in the presidential election. President Barack Obama, the Democratic nominee, carried Virginia with 51 percent of the vote, followed by Republican Mitt Romney at 47 percent. Three other candidates who qualified for the ballot received less than 1 percent apiece: Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party, Virgil Goode of the Constitution Party and Jill Stein of the Green Party.
The FEC’s Virginia tally for 2012 notes a total of 7,151 “scattered” write-in votes — write-ins cast for candidates who were not certified for the ballot in Virginia.
The FEC tally also itemizes the totals for write-in candidates who qualified for the Virginia ballot:
- Ross “Rocky” Anderson, who served as mayor of Salt Lake City as a Democrat from 2000 to 2008, received 76 write-in votes in Virginia as the nominee of the Justice Party.
- Jill Reed, candidate of the Twelve Visions Party, got 14 write-in votes in the state.
- Joseph Glean, who ran independent campaigns for a Fairfax seat in the House of Delegates, filed slates with two different running mates. He received three write-in votes with Darlene Herleikson as his running mate. He received one write-in vote with Jamie Johnson as his running mate.
- Sheila “Samm” Tittle got one write-in vote, according to the FEC.
Virginia’s record for write-in votes cast for a presidential candidate is the 2,393 that went to Ralph Nader when he qualified for a write-in bid in 2004, according to Winger.
Other states have had much higher tallies. For instance, in 1976, independent Eugene McCarthy, the former U.S. senator from Minnesota, received 58,412 write-in votes in California. Nader got 18,506 write-in votes in Indiana in 2000.
Write-in votes are more prevalent when there is no contest, or when voters are frustrated, said Larry Haake, registrar in Chesterfield County.
He added: “This is a high-frustration year.”