Written-In Fiction: The Myth of the Write-In Vote in California and Beyond

According to California Election Code, “Except for a voter-nominated office at a general election, each voter is entitled to write on the ballot the name of any candidate for any public office.”1 Though the statute may entitle voters to write in any candidate’s name, their votes will be counted only if their write- in candidate of choice has completed a series of requirements. Voters therefore may not write in the name of any candidate, as is implied by the Elections Code, but only the names of duly qualified write-in candidates.

This report examines write-in voting in California. It describe the write-in process for candidates, voters, and election officials. The report then compares California to other states, giving California write-in regulations national context. In addition, the report summarizes legal and constitutional standards surrounding write-in voting, assessing whether voters have a right to write-in their candidates of choice. In the end, the report finds that write-in voting is in fact a misnomer. It is more accurately referred to as a secondary filing process for less organized and less serious candidates.

Ian O’Grady ’15 directed the research for this Rose Institute publication, with help from Lane Corrigan ’17, Francesca Hidalgo ’17, and Caroline Peck ’18.

Click here to read the paper

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