Votes for write-ins defeated in primaries aren't counted

Qualifying requires only notice, ad in newspaper

ATLANTA --- Georgia voters unhappy with their choices on the November ballot might consider writing in the name of someone they like better, but they can't select someone such as Karen Handel or Thurbert Baker if they want their votes counted.

The flood of negative campaign ads is designed to weaken support for the established candidates, and experts say they usually work. As a result, candidates who lost the primary such as Handel and Baker might look more attractive than the nominees.

Only qualified candidates can have their write-in votes counted under Georgia law, eliminating the hassle of tallying up ballots for Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. Candidates who lost a primary can't qualify for a write-in.

That limits the choices in the governor's race to the candidates whose names will appear on the ballots, Republican Nathan Deal, Democrat Roy Barnes and Libertarian John Monds, and the two who qualified as write-in candidates, David C. Byrne of Kennesaw and Neal Horsley of Carrollton.

Qualifying for a write-in candidacy requires only ending a notice to the Secretary of State's Office and running a legal ad in a newspaper.

Brian R. Brown of Augusta has done it three times. He ran for Congress in 2006, president two years later and U.S. Senate this year.

Although he doesn't know how many votes he has drawn, he keeps running out of civic duty.

"It's what I'm supposed to do. It's what I believe in," he said, adding that he has campaigned a little around the state on a platform of ensuring everyone gets the disability payments they're entitled to since he felt he didn't get his.

Write-in candidates haven't all been long shots. Some have affected the outcome.

In 1946, Eugene Talmadge's supporters worried he was too sick to take office if he won the governor's race, so they mounted a write-in campaign for his son Herman. When Eugene Talmadge died, the three-way race threw the decision into the House of Representatives which elected Herman Talmadge. The Supreme Court eventually ruled that Lt. Gov.-elect Melvin Thompson was the rightful governor, but only after a national controversy.

Twenty years later, Gov. Ellis Arnall lost the Democratic primary to Lester Maddox, and then mounted a write-in campaign when it became clear Republicans had crossed over to help the segregationist Maddox win as the easier foe. Republican Bo Callaway did get the most votes, but since he fell short of a majority, that decision also wound up in the House where the dominant Democrats reluctantly picked Maddox.

The first person elected to a major office as a write-in candidate was Strom Thurmond in South Carolina. He won a seat in the U.S. Senate in 1954 after having been a governor and having run for president against Harry Truman.


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