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


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:

Read more about write-in votes in Spanish at

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x