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Can You Write-In Bernie Sanders When Voting for President?

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Can you write-in Sanders for president? (Getty)

Now that the Democratic National Convention is over and Hillary Clinton got the nomination, Bernie Sanders supporters who are firmly in the #NeverHillary camp are wondering what’s next. Some have mentioned in online discussions that they may just write in Sanders during the presidential election in November. But this actually won’t work in most states unless Sanders wants to be a write-in candidate. (Note: This story has been updated to reflect the newest rule changes.)

Here’s what you need to know.


Thirty-Four States Require Candidates to Register for Write-Ins and Nine States Don’t Allow Write-Ins

Although the concept of a write-in candidate sounds like you can write-in whomever you want and have your vote count, it actually doesn’t work this way. Most states actually require that a candidate registers to be a write-in candidate before your vote for him or her can count.

According to Ballotpedia, 34 states require that a write-in presidential candidate file paperwork before an election in order for votes for that candidate to be counted. This can include an affidavit and sometimes a filling fee one month before the election. Some states, like North Carolina, require a petition and the names are then posted on a list at the polling locations, but not on the official ballot. In Maryland, for example, a write-in vote for a candidate who didn’t register is just lumped into an “other” category.

On top of this, other states don’t allow write-in candidates at all: Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arkansas, Louisiana, South Carolina, South Dakota, Hawaii, and Nevada.


Only a Few States Allow Write-Ins Without Registration

This means that only a few states allow write-in candidates freely, with no requirements. Note: Since this story was originally published, some states have changed their write-in requirements. At the time of publication, the states that are allowing write-ins appear to be:

Alabama, California, Iowa, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.  (Note: Mississippi and Wyoming might also be on this list, but the rules appear conflicting.)

You will also need to check with your state to make sure you are spelling his name correctly when you’re writing it in. In California, for example, you must write in Bernard “Bernie” Sanders, with Tulsie Gabbard as the vice president.

So could any of these states give Bernie Sanders electoral college vote wins? Theoretically, it’s possible if he got more write-in votes than any other candidate. But at that point, you have to start looking at the electoral college.  The electoral college, rather than Americans, directly elects the president. Each state plus D.C. gets at least three of the 538 electors, divided up according to how many Senators and House representatives are in each state. The electors cast their votes in December and Congress counts the votes in January. If someone gets at least 270 votes (a majority), they will win. If no one gets the majority, then the House of Representatives would pick the winner from the three candidates who got the most electoral votes. Would the House pick Sanders if he came in third solely because of write-in votes? It’s not very likely.

And on top of this, you have to consider sore loser laws and whether they apply to presidential write-in candidates. USA Today reported in February, when the question was raised concerning Donald Trump, that sore loser laws may not apply to a presidential candidate. Richard Winger, editor of Ballot Access News, said that although 45 states have sore loser laws, only two of those states have laws that could actually apply to presidential candidates. And whether those apply to write-in candidates is a different question entirely.

But still, a write-in candidacy for Bernie Sanders would have very little chance of succeeding, especially since it would only be carried out in a few states and most likely without his involvement at all.


Voting for a Third Party Is Another Option for Sanders Supporters

For supporters who don’t want to vote for Clinton or Donald Trump, they’re not out of options. Right now, their top choices are Jill Stein on the Green Party ticket or Gary Johnson on the Libertarian ticket. Considering how unpredictable this election has been so far, either of those candidates could make a strong showing with the right backing.

Read more about Gary Johnson and Jill Stein below:

Will Gary Johnson Be in the Debates with Clinton and Trump?

Could Gary Johnson be in the debates with Trump and Clinton? The third party candidate is rising in the polls and is poised to shake everything up.

Click here to read more

Jill Stein in Vermont: The Pictures You Need to See

Jill Stein's campaign is skyrocketing now that Bernie endorsed Clinton. See photos from her trip to Vermont and why she raised a quarter million in a week.

Click here to read more

Read more about write-in votes in Spanish at AhoraMismo.com:

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72 comments

  1. It is the new version of democracy as defined by the Republicans and Democrats. Make it as difficult as possible to vote for the person you want. If people could write in the name of the person they want,ed they probably wouldn’t write in the name of the person the political parties and their sponsors want. As Jimmy Carter said, this is no longer a democracy, it is an oligarchy. Proof positive with Clinton and Trump.

    • Dear uninformed voter: This is not new. In seven of the nine states that don’t allow write-ins, it’s been law since the states existed. Do you know how long South Carolina, for example, has been a state? I’ll give you a hint, since you seem to need a few: Longer than either party has been around. In the other two, it’s been law for decades. Complain all you like, but when you don’t bother to educate yourself first, you sound like a fool.

      • Right, the thing is, even if every state allowed write ins and every voter wrote in the name of a fictitious character, the choices would still be made by the electoral college. A good number of which have already either been paid off or have made choices based on nepotism/party based ideology. After the primary elections, everything is on autopilot for the average citizen voter.

        • How members of the electoral college vote are determined by state laws- most of which say they must vote for the candidate who receives the popular vote. Not voting according to law means that you are kicked off the electoral college and your vote also may be negated. Different states have different laws concerning this but all the laws remove an electoral if he or she does not follow the law.

      • Well, it is time to change that! The electoral college is a stupid process and needs to be abolished! Our president should only be chosen by popular vote, and the primary/caucus process for presidential nominees needs to be federally standardized in all states! What we have gone through this year is beyond comprehension, and it is not over yet!

    • Actually, I think there are 10 states & DC. Here are a couple of sites you can check: BernieVote.com website and/or Write-In Bernie Sanders for President!!~ which is on facebook.
      If you still are not sure, call the office of the Sect’y of State where you live and find out the specific rules that apply in your state!
      Good luck

  2. Regardless of the arbitrary filing deadlines, I and many others will raise our voiced and cast our vote for a leader who represents real Americans and “The American Dream”: Bernard “Bernie” Sanders. Racist-Trump and anti-LGBT-Hillary (look it up) merely represent different sides of the same coin.

    • And I, as an election judge, will be required by law to ignore and not in any way record your vote. It will be as if you skipped voting for president completely. No one but a tired election judge at the end of a very long day will know there was even a protest vote.

      • You may be an election judge, but your comment illustrates your ignorance. In your state the law may require you to ignore write-ins, but that is not the case in all states. Your reply demonstrates one of the problems with the system – people assuming they know everything based on their individual, personal experience and sphere. As an election judge you would do well to inform yourself better, and stop posting comments without qualifying them – e.g. how about sharing the specific state where you are an election judge, and qualifying your comment with the truth – each state handles write-ins in it’s own way, there is no blanket rule for write-ins in the U.S. 43 states count write-in votes, rules about doing write-ins vary by state; anyone inclined to write-in a candidate should look up their state’s specific rules re write-ins.

      • Could someone please answer my concern: if I write in a presidential candidate and that candidate is not on the “registered write in candidate” list, does that void my entire ballot? Or will my votes for school board, etc., still count? p.s., I live in Indiana.

        • In general, as long as there is a place for the write-in candidate on the ballot and you only use that place, the rest of your ballot will count. However, with 15 official write-in candidates in Indiana, why not choose one of them if you aren’t satisfied with the Republican, Democrat, or Libertarian candidates on the ticket. Here’s the list of approved presidential write-in candidates for Indiana: Darrell L. Castle, Jill Stein, Ray C Brown, “Rocky” Roque De La Fuente, Richard Duncan, Cherunda Fox, Tom Hoefling, Denny C Jackson , Melissa L Kelly, Laurence Kotlikoff, Joseph Maldonado, Ric Mullis, Matthew “None of the Above” Roberts, Emidio Soltysik, Monica Moorehead

  3. First Past the Post means there is no third option in any election. You have a choice of either voting for X, or letting Y get more votes. In this case X is Hillary and Y is Trump. Don’t let the next four years of your life be determined by how you feel right now.

    I wish there was an alternative voting system but that’s not the world we live in right now. Progressives would better serve their goals by electing Hillary as a one-term POTUS to stop Trump until they can find someone else down the line.

    • Only in your opinion. Most people hate Clinton and don’t trust her for very good reasons, so if she wins, it is rigged, just like Trump said. And, FYI, I am a democrat, but will never degrade myself to vote for Clinton, since she doesn’t deserve my vote, or anyone’s vote for that matter. She is going to ruin the country, if she doesn’t start WW 3 first of course! Then there won’t be any country left to ruin, they will all be gone!

    • That is not true if no one receives 270 electoral votes. So since you are implying there are no third party candidates, or write-ins, you must be saying that it is already rigged! Maybe we should all vote Y just to prove it to our president, who adamantly insists that it isn’t possible to rig the elections! It sounds like he is more ignorant than he thinks we are!

  4. So let me see if I have this right. The DNC and the Clinton clan has been caught red-handed via those dastardly emails, conspiring to keep Sanders out, and according to Silverman,
    it is the Sanders ‘supporters’ that are being ‘ridiculous’??

    • Do you have some kind of link to this as it looks to me as the candidate has to file paperwork in most states, not supporters.

  5. I’m grieving for America because Bernie did not get the nomination. I applaud those courageous enough at the convention to withhold their vote from Hillary and still endorse Bernie. It is a shame that we as Americans cannot just write him in as a candidate. I think that it might be time to scrutinize the use of the electoral college and do away with that system all together. Let the vote really represent the populace!!

    • I wish the same as you, but, unfortunately, if he had won the nomination, I believe “something” would have happened to him (found dead, dropping out of the race for “reasons”) bc this election has already been decided long ago by the 1%ers: Rothschilds, Rockafellers, and the like. Our “freedom of choice” is merely an illusion and has been for a long, long time.

  6. i’m more of a libertarian on principle and rationale than a republican; but i don’t want to waste my vote on guys that couldn’t even get the 15% needed for a tv debate. because the country can’t wait four more years for these mofos to get their act together… also i think the positions of prez and viceprez should be reversed. ie, i don’t like johnson as the prez, he should be the viceprez; and weld should be the prez, imho. it also saddens me that very little media coverage is given to others that are not from the standard dual system. and how very little is spent from the parties themselves in their campaigns. specifically, the basic info that there’s more than two parties. not to mention more advanced education of the public such that prohibitions can never work as intended. for example, drug legalization is the way to go; etc, etc, etc… i had proposed to implement an alt e-democracy system a while ago, but nobody of the academic status quo liked the idea :(

  7. i am showing up to remind every1 that it is a privilege to vote- never take that for granted. there are plenty of down ticket candidates that i will be voting for/against. and if there is no option to write in bernie’s name in texas then one can always leave that entry (president) blank. yes you can vote w/o filling in every category….lil bro

    • Somehow, my reply to your comment didn’t show up. As Kristin Mickle says, voting is a RIGHT, not a privilege. In fact, it’s a right mentioned more than five times in the Constitution!

  8. thanks so much for that info (was going to write-in bernie); will try to check and see if there’s an ‘official’ Illinois anti-gun write-in candidate (probably not , not even Stein is really ‘anti-gun’).

  9. This is my thought: Bernie was easily winning so some idiot who is corrupted in every way possible want Americans to suffer threatened Bernies family and he dropped out or Hillaries ugly campaign was probably paid off? We do NOT anymore corruptions!!!!!! We suffered enough over the years its time we True Americans fight back

    • What higher offices has Jill Stein ever held? Who has she helped get elected to higher office in the past? What laws has she been instrumental in getting passed? Jill Stein vs Putin? Really? I feel like I don’t have any reasonable choice in this election. I want to write in Bernie, but in my state they won’t even officially count and announce the votes he will get. Yet Trump, Clinton, and Johnson are all unacceptable. That leaves Stein, but you can see my reservations about that option.

  10. Dear Americans,

    It is like Chasing the American Dream, written funny enough by one of my past professors and various collegues of his. I literally thought he was over exaggerating, but if you look through history and see how elections have run, we can see people being bought out, policies in place that make it hard for some people to truly cast a vote that is representative of who they feel as an individual SHOULD be president (the very topic most are discussing), and how the political system is set up so that not all states allow write-ins and those that do do not guarentee you can even write in who you want to! Sanders for example will have to want to be written in otherwise your vote doesn’t count if you just write him in anyway, and as a result millions of Americans are either unable to vote because they can’t switch parties to the party they now WANT to vote for after learning the cold hard truth about Trump, (I was reading some people want ot vote Sanders who originally wanted Trump–and of course other alterations of the kind) OR, the former, they can’t even vote for who they want to. Period. THEREFORE, our vote in a country with over 300 million people will not be representative of themajority, it WILL be representative of the 1%. And that’s the abridged version. Everyone go out and read this book. It’s free online. Go forth and learn about how truly corrupt the American political system is and how eventually we will have a country wide rebellion take place and likely the end of society as it is now and hopefully a better paradigm will be formed in which the 99% are represented. Don’t you worry government. I’m on to you.

  11. There is someone else running for president. He is a write in for Vermont and other states. He is also on the ballot for the other states that don’t have write-ins. His name is Evan McMullin. Check him out. He is on twitter and you can check him out at EVANMCMULLIN.COM

  12. Ask trump how was, he then and now able to do business in the New York real estate industry with out paying off the New York mob.

  13. This completely leaves open the question: Is Sanders registered as a write-in candidate in the states that allow that? I’ve found one article claiming that he’s registered as a write-in in all 50 states but the source link just leads to a 404 error. All the other articles just say only write-ins for registered candidates are counted but don’t say how to find out if a candidate is registered as a write-in.

    • Bernie did not fill out necessary paperwork to be considered a write in, so a vote for him won’t count as a vote for him.

  14. When writing in, do I say “Bernie Sanders” or “Bernard Sanders”? I don’t want my vote to not be counted because I wrote the name wrong, and I know that happens a lot.

    Thanks.

  15. You can’t write Bernie in; I mean, you can, but it will not be counted as a vote towards him, as he did not fill out necessary paperwork to be considered a write in candidate. Boo :(

  16. Some are doing this for #OpDeny270 – my opinion is a vote for Jill Stein gets the Greens closer to their 5 percent so they can make changes on future ballots and #BreakThe2PartyTrap in 2020. Lots of smearing going on about Jill and the facts can be found at Jill2016.com – also please press for #RankedChoiceVoting so we can get better ballots and a better voting system!

  17. Quick Question: Is there a way to petition either party to select a new Delegate or discredit this election entirely? I am abhorred to the thought of either of these candidates taking office. (Much more fearful of Trump than Clinton)

  18. I did not find this posted on your fb page. It’s an informative article but lacks specifics on the states that do count write in candidate votes.
    Directly quoting from your article
    ” The electoral college, rather than Americans, directly elects the president. Each state plus D.C. gets at least three of the 538 electors, divided up according to how many Senators and House representatives are in each state. The electors cast their votes in December and Congress counts the votes in January.
    So please tell me exactly how my vote counts!!! It didn’t count here in my state of Wisconsin during the primaries when Senator Sanders won every single county but one and the Superdelegates did NOT abide by the will of the people. This is a complete farse!

  19. Your article has false facts… just so you know. I am glad that I fact checked. This is terrible reporting.

    There are currently only a few states that allow you to write in a candidate that hasn’t registered…. Those states include:
    Alabama, Delaware, Iowa, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, and Wyoming.

    There are a few states that do NOT allow write ins period. Those states include:
    Arkansas, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, Oklahoma, and South Dakota

  20. great way to mislead voters. Regardless of whether or not a state has “sore loser” voting laws, you Neglected to tell people that in order to be counted, their write-in vote must say the complete name and title of, “SENATOR BERNARD SANDERS” . A write-in vote that says Bernie Sanders will NOT be counted. Great way to bamboozle people.

  21. WRONG. This is the response I received from Washington SOS office
    Danyelle,
    Thank you for emailing the Office of the Secretary of State.
    Every voter has the right to cast a write-in vote and those votes are accounted for in the total number of write-ins on the election results. Write-in votes for all candidates are put into a single bucket in the final results. The number of write-ins will not appear on the Secretary of State’s website, but are included in the county election results.
    If this total number of write-in votes is enough to possibly make a difference in the outcome of the race, we will tally the write-in votes for each individual candidate. Some counties will tally the write-ins as they go but others do not tally unless the total number will make a difference. In the case of President, the number of write-ins must be equal to or greater than the number of votes received by the winning candidate. If there are not enough write-in votes to make a difference, then the write-in votes are not required to be tallied for individual candidates. (RCW 29A.60.021)
    The “Sore loser” laws, which you mention below, where enforced, are not generally considered to be applicable to presidential candidates.
    Again, every voter is free to exercise their right to a write-in vote for President.
    If you have questions on how your county will handle the results of your ballot, you can find contact information for your local County Auditor at the following: https://www.sos.wa.gov/elections/auditors.aspx
    Hope that helps,
    Adam Noble

  22. Protest vote!! Write in Bernie Sanders and send a clear message to this corrupt dnc!! If they lose than its their own fault!! Bernie or bust!!

  23. This is not a democracy. These administrative hurdles are for the benefit of fat cats controlling democrats and republicans, which neither seems to mind, and they love the corporate contributions. In a true democracy Sanders could have at least ran against Clinton and Trump as a write in candidate. So you say there wouldn’t be enough time and skulduggery to count write in ballots. Time should not be a factor. It took at least a month to decide if Gore or Bush would be president. In addition one day from 8am to 8pm is riduculously tight for a nation of 400 million. India has 4 times the population and their elections last for a month. With Americans working so many different hours and working several jobs to keep up with inflation with very little rise in wages since the 1970’s, we can have at least a 2 day, Sunday Monday polling stations open. And again the Bush Gore elections set the precident for taking all the time that was needed to decide on the winner. It should have never went to the supreme court and we should get rid of the electoral college. If that was the case Gore had won the popular vote