by Alexandria McIntire
armcintire@uga.edu

Voters who aren’t happy with names on the ballot can write-in candidates for President or some other offices.

But if the name is Mickey Mouse, Darth Vader, or any other fictional character (or dead person) their vote won’t count. In fact, Georgia requires write-in candidates to file advance paperwork in order for their votes to be tallied as part of official election results.

People who want to be qualified write-in candidates in Georgia must follow the rules laid out in Georgia law O.C.G.A. § 21-2-133. They must file notice between January 1 and the Tuesday after the first Monday in September, publish their intention to run in at least one newspaper, and show proof of identity to an appropriate government official, said Cora Wright, interim director of the Athens-Clarke County Board of Elections.

And, if they expect to get votes, qualified write-in candidates face an uphill publicity battle.

“It’s hard, hard just to get the word out,” said Charles S. Bullock, III, a UGA political science professor, about the challenges for write-in candidates. All the logistics have to go right: voters must know which write-in candidates are running in which contest, and once they get in the booth, they must also be able to spell the candidate’s name right.

There are limitations on who can be considered a write-in candidate in Georgia. Anyone who loses in a primary contest, for example, cannot run as a write-in candidate in the general election, Wright said.

Georgia’s Secretary of State publishes an official list of write-in candidates who have qualified for all the races on the ballot. A common myth is that if voters write in someone who is not on the official list, the rest of the voter’s ballot will not be counted. However, this is not true; voting for an ineligible write-in does not disqualify the rest of your ballot, said Wright.

The list of 17 qualified write-in candidates for President includes two prominent names: Evan McMullin and Jill Stein.

McMullin, a former CIA operative and former Republican official, is running as an Independent. He is on the ballot in 11 states, including his home state of Utah, but is a write-in candidate in Georgia. He is endorsed by several Republican state representatives from Utah.

Massachusetts physician Jill Stein is the Presidential nominee for the Green Party, but she failed to qualify for placement on the Georgia ballot. According to her campaign website, she is listed on the ballot in 45 states and is a write-in candidate in two other states besides Georgia.

Michael Russell, who coordinates her campaign in Athens, says that he encourages people to vote third party because it could help do away with the two party system, and says it will be another two years after this election to do anything else.

Other qualified write-in candidates include Democrat Leonard Ware, who hopes people will choose him for District 10 in the U.S. House of Representatives, and Michelle Gates, an Independent, running for State Senate.

To find the list of qualified write-in candidates, visit the Georgia Secretary of State website: https://gvrs.sos.state.ga.us/GAElection/CandidateDetails.