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Want to write in a presidential pick? Here are your 7 options

Nov 3, 2016

To say that many voters are disenchanted with both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump would be an understatement. For a while, I thought this might be a big breakthrough year for the Libertarian or the Green Parties.

However, that doesn’t seem likely.

Support for Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson dwindled after he seemed utterly ignorant of foreign affairs. Too many liberals are still too traumatized by memories of Ralph Nader costing Al Gore the presidency to consider Stein.

So what about writing in somebody?

John Kasich, the governor of Ohio, wrote in Senator John McCain on his absentee ballot. And while it is only anecdotal, I’ve heard a lot of Michiganders say they planned to write-in names from Kasich himself, to their dog.

Well, I’ve got news for you.

You can indeed do that – but only for one of seven possible candidates approved for write-in status by the Michigan Bureau of Elections.

They are:

  • Cherunda Fox,
  • Ben Hartnell,
  • Tom Hoefling,
  • Laurence Kotlikoff,
  • Evan McMullin,
  • Michael Maturen,
  • and Monica Moorehead.

Vote for any of those, and your ballot will be tallied and reported.

That’s because the magnificent seven each filed a “Declaration of Intent” form with the state by the October 28 deadline.

But if you write in McCain, or anyone else, it won’t be. Clerks in your local precinct have been instructed not even to record your vote.

... if you hadn't heard of most of the officially approved write-in candidates, don't feel too ignorant; neither had I.

By the way, if you hadn’t heard of most of the officially approved write-in candidates, don’t feel too ignorant; neither had I.

The only one I knew something about was Evan McMullin, a former policy director for the U.S. House of Representatives.

He’s actually on the ballot in several states, and has some chance of winning Utah; he’s mainly the candidate of Mormons who cannot stand Trump.

The others are an interesting collection.

Monica Moorehead is the candidate of the Workers’ World party, and may be worth considering if you think maybe Marx and Lenin were right all along.

Laurence Kotlikoff is an economics professor who doesn’t like either major party.

Tom Hoefling is an anti-abortion activist who practices what he preaches; he has nine children.

Ben Hartnell is a high school teacher in Westerville, Ohio who is doing this partly as a civics lesson for his students. He just turned 35 and aims to be the first bearded president since Benjamin Harrison.

However, there’s also an angry write-in wannabee whose application was turned down by the state.

Matthew Roberts is an adjunct professor at Grand Valley State who was denied official write-in status.

He was told he had to file a slate of potential presidential electors, one from each congressional district, and he didn’t do that.

He claims that this is not a requirement spelled out in law, and said he has evidence that in the past, some major party candidates haven’t lived up to that requirement. This might make an interesting constitutional law case, but for now, he’s shut out.

My guess is that none of these folks will receive more than a few hundred votes; after all, they can’t afford TV advertising. But they are exercising their constitutional right and giving us a choice. What’s more, one or two of them even seem to be having a good time.

Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio's political analyst. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.