The Importance of Santa Claus and Mickey Mouse Write-in Votes in Alabama

Alabamians are prolific write-in voters, according to the Federal Elections Committee. Furthering a trend in which write-in totals have soared in the state—and nationally—over the past eight presidential elections, 21,712 of Alabama’s voters opted to write in a candidate in 2016. That’s slightly more than one percent of voters and twice the national average. And the write-in total is expected to skyrocket in tomorrow’s United States Senate special election.

On November 29, in response to a high volume of requests for guidance on write-in vote procedures, Alabama’s secretary of state John Merrill published a how-to.

Yesterday, on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Alabama’s senior senator, Richard Shelby (R) said, “I’d rather see a Republican win, but I would hope that Republican would be a write-in. I couldn’t vote for Roy Moore, I didn’t vote for Roy Moore, but I wrote in a distinguished Republican name.”

Shelby also said he thought a lot of voters will do likewise.

Echoing sentiments of Republicans statewide—and potentially influencing the 1,335,104 Alabamians who voted for him in 2016—Shelby added, “As a Republican, I had to vote Republican—I wanted to vote Republican. I understand where the president is coming from. I understand we would like to retain that seat in the U.S. Senate.” He went on to explain the tipping point in his decision: “So many accusations. So many cuts. So many drip, drip, drip…. When it got to the fourteen-year-old’s story, that was enough for me. I said, ‘I can’t vote for Roy Moore.’”

A very informal Huffington Post poll found Luther Strange (R) with a commanding lead among write-in candidates in Alabama. Strange, who is currently serving as the state’s junior senator and who lost to Moore in the primary, leads by a wide margin over perennially popular write-in choices Santa Claus and Mickey Mouse, both of whom received votes in the 2016 senate election. 2017 Alabama write-ins also include University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban, Jesus, and a 2016 write-in candidate for president in North Carolina, “grilled cheese sandwich.” [source] Not incidentally, in the same North Carolina county, Mickey Mouse outscored nationwide write-in-vote leader Rand Paul, 43 to 41. Also receiving votes were actor Bill Murray, Bugs Bunny, Donald Duck, Winnie-the-Pooh, Superman, and Captain America.

All of the above but Strange and Saban are precluded from service in Alabama by Article I, Section 3 of the United States Constitution: “No person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty Years, and been nine Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen.”

Consequently, per Alabama election law, votes for Santa and Mickey will be discarded.

But they may still count.

In the 2016 presidential election, “none of the above” received 28,863 votes, or 2.5% of the vote, in Nevada, where Hillary Clinton defeated Donald Trump by 27,207 votes. [source].

US Senate elections have been decided by as little as 0.0009% vote—the two-vote margin by which Democrat John Durkin defeated Republican Louis Wyman in New Hampshire in 1974.

As one Alabama Republican said of tomorrow’s senate election, “Santa or Mickey can still win it for us by taking votes away from Moore.” He noted that Jesus may also play a key role: “A lot of Republicans here have been praying to him for anyone but Moore.”

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