A vote for an unregistered write-in candidate doesn’t count, but that did not stop 455 Augusta voters from writing in some 1,103 names on the May 20 ballot.
Richmond County Board of Elections Executive Director Lynn Bailey said it isn’t uncommon to have more write-ins when there are several uncontested races on the ballot as there were May 20, including 12 judgeships.
Voters who write in names have been known to send a message, as did nearly 4,000 who wrote the name of 19th-century naturalist Charles Darwin on a 2012 ballot in opposition to unopposed 10th Congressional District incumbent Paul Broun, after Broun called Darwin’s evolutionary theory and other science “lies straight from the pit of hell.”
Registered write-in candidates occasionally win elections, such as Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who won back her Alaska Senate seat as a registered write-in in 2010 after losing the primary to a Tea Party-backed candidate.
Here, none have seen similar success. In 2010, Georgia Senate District 23 candidate Diane Evans ran as a registered write-in, garnering 406 write-in votes.
Bailey said she didn’t recall any Augusta-Richmond County candidate attempting a registered write-in campaign in at least 15 years, and none winning an election.
In Augusta, some 154 voters opted against selecting any of five qualified mayoral candidates May 20, and instead took the time to type in a name of their own choosing. Write-ins aren’t allowed in the primary contests.
While many voters appeared to write their own names, or those of their children, on the ballot, the name written in the most for mayor was Mickey Mouse, with eight.
Fictional characters Batman, Charlie Brown, Dumbo, Donald Duck, Elmer Fudd, Fred Flintstone, Kermit the Frog, Mr. Magoo, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Scooby Doo and a “Nurse Diesel Ratchet” also got a mention or two in mayoral balloting.
Real-life local politicians and officials whose names were written in for mayor included former Mayors Bob Young and Larry Sconyers, Mayor Deke Copenhaver, Mayor Pro Tem Corey Johnson, Bill Bloodworth, Cedric Johnson, Chip Barbee, Dianne Murphy, Frank Dolan, Harold Jones, Matt Aitken, Mary Davis, Woody Merry, Walter Sprouse and Willie Mays. One write-in went to Helen Blocker-Adams, the mayoral candidate who withdrew prior to the election.
A few voters also wrote-in candidates for the contested District 2, 4 and 6 elections for Augusta Commission, and a handful – 22 – wrote in names for the uncontested District 8 seat.
The bulk of the written-in names went on the ballot under the uncontested judgeships, with Georgia Supreme Court Justice Robert Benham having the most, with 139.
Augusta voters tended to plug in the name of a local attorney or judge for the uncontested judgeships, with the most, 37, writing in the name of Richmond County State Court Judge David Watkins and 30 writing in the name of former Juvenile Court Judge Willie Saunders. Overall, the most written-in phrase on the ballot was “anyone but” the candidate or some variation, with 52 voters doing so. Thirty-six wrote in “other.”
While the votes don’t count, each is recorded and compiled by Bailey’s office.
Other cartoon characters written in were Minnie Mouse, Mighty Mouse, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Doc McStuffin(s), Goofy, Scrooge McDuck, Snoopy, Snuffy Smith, Superman and Wonder Woman.