Every election season, Idahoans can choose to vote from a host of candidates from various political parties or sometimes no party at all. But as is the case in a vast majority of elections, most people only choose between the two major political parties. Third party candidates , let alone write-in candidates, rarely make it into office.
The only time you’ll ever see write-in candidates win is if there’s an incumbent senator,” said Matthew Miles, a political science professor at Brigham Young University-Idaho. “Something has happened that made it so they can’t run as a party they represent in the Senate, so they’ll run as write-in candidate. I think three times in the recent past, three times those (candidates) have won.”
The main reason why so few write-in candidates ever win comes down to how Americans vote. “Most Americans don’t know the names of the people they’re voting for. The go for party first, then they look for names they recognize, and then they sort of vote based on that,” said Miles.
Name recognition is one reason why a well-known fictional character is consistently one of the top write-in candidates for president. “The write in candidate that gets the most votes in every race, Mickey Mouse,” said Miles. “People know the name. Number two is Donald Duck.”
Miles said while it’s highly unlikely for any write-in candidate to win, many still run because they believe they can make a difference. “These people have strong personal conviction that they have something to offer the public that isn’t being offered in the other candidates,” said Miles.
Voters wanting to cast a ballot for a write-in candidate must know the last name of the candidate they’re voting for. “We do not provide the list for them, they have to be informed for the candidate they want to write in,” said Brenda Stoor, the elections clerk for Madison County.
Stoor said the only write-in votes that count are those cast for candidates who officially registered. “They have to be a viable candidate, that is registered in the state or the county,” said Stoor. “If they (the candidate) aren’t registered, the vote for them will not count.”
That means while Mickey Mouse often gets thousands of votes every year, the cartoon icon still has very little chance of making it into office.