Write-in Votes for Bernie are NOT an Option!

Unless Bernie starts an official write-in campaign, your write-in vote is unlikely to be counted.

I co-manage the Bernie field office in Newton, New Jersey – yes, we’re still open – and I have put countless hours into the campaign. Many others and myself are still working for Bernie. More importantly, we are still working for the cause in general. Having said that, I am very disturbed that a lot of people are spreading misinformation about the viability of a write-in campaign for Bernie. It will not work, mainly because of various state restrictions that apply to write-in candidates. This is the law, and denying these laws exist will not prevent your vote for Bernie from being thrown in the wastebasket.

The most recent rumors that have surfaced come from a document which was posted by Kanta Masters.  Unfortunately, much what is in this document is untrue or misleading. I do not think that Ms. Masters is trying to deceive anyone on purpose, but she has been misinformed. Much of what is discussed pertains to petitions to get Bernie on the ballot for the Democratic Primaries. These petitions have nothing to do with being registered as a write-in in the general election in November. The document claims that Bernie has met the requirements to be a write-in candidate in “nearly all states,” and that is absolutely false.

After corresponding with Richard Winger, a national authority on ballot access, and researching on the site BallotPedia.org, I now have a firm grasp as to how the write-in process actually works for presidential candidates in the US. In seven states (Arkansas, Hawaii, Louisiana, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and South Dakota) write-in votes are simply not allowed. Nine other states (Alabama – not noted on map, Iowa, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont) have no restrictions. In the remaining 34 states, there are some restrictions, including registering as a candidate with the state’s Secretary of State/Board of Elections.

Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 8.39.49 PM
US Presidential Write-in Restrictions by State via BallotPedia.

I called election officials in four of those 34 states (California, Illinois, New York, and Texas) that have write-in restrictions. I picked those four because they are among top six states in terms of largest populations and the most Electoral College votes. I have yet to hear back from California. New York told me that no candidates have registered as a write-in. Illinois told me that Bernie is not registered as a write-in, nor could he be because of the state’s “sore-loser” law that prevents candidates who lose in primaries from running as a write-in in general elections. Texas told me that no write-in candidate can register before July 23, and the state’s sore-loser law would also excluded Bernie from running as a write-in. So, of the three states that I spoke to, all three said that Bernie was not registered, and two emphatically said that he could not be a write-in candidate.

According to Winger, 45 states have sore-loser laws, but only a handful (Illinois, Ohio, South Dakota, and Texas) have laws that apply to presidential candidates. Additionally, Winger says that he has doubts as to whether these laws would actually be enforceable. However, even if Bernie can get around these sore-loser laws, he has to register in 34 states, which he has yet to do in New York, for example. AND he will NOT register in those states if he doesn’t officially continue his run. The bottom line is: if Bernie doesn’t officially continue his campaign after the convention and register as a write-in candidate, a write-in vote for Bernie will count in ONLY nine states!

Let’s be positive and assume that Bernie wants to continue his run.

If Bernie gets the nomination at the DNCC, all of our problems are solved. Unfortunately, that looks very unlikely at this point. Yes, we should get our delegates to Philly, and yes, we should protest at the convention, but the chances are great that the corrupt DNC will ignore us, just as they have been doing this entire campaign (and for years, for that matter).

Could Bernie continue as an independent? The simple answer is “NO.” Getting on the ballot as an independent after the DNCC would be nearly impossible in most states because of the petition deadlines and the outlandish number of signatures required in certain states.  In fact, the deadlines have already passed in Illinois, North Carolina, and Texas.

Could Bernie continue as a write-in candidate?  Yes, if he registers as a write-in. As I noted above, write-in votes for Bernie might count in as many as 43 states, with Arkansas, Hawaii, Louisiana, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and South Dakota being the known exceptions.  Illinois, Ohio, and Texas could also be exceptions due to “sore-loser” laws, which would lower the number of eligible states to 40.

Could Bernie continue as a member of the Green Party?  The Green Party presumptive nominee, Jill Stein, has said that she would consider stepping back to the VP slot behind Bernie, and that is logistically possible since the party’s convention takes place in August, after the DNCC.  Considering what Bernie would bring to the table in terms of votes, experience and prestige, it is difficult to imagine Stein not stepping back for the good of the party and the country.

The Greens are currently on the ballot in 21 states, including key states like California, New York, and Texas. The Greens are currently working on the remaining states, but they are running out of time. For example, in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the Greens must get a certain amount of petition signatures by August 1.

I asked Winger about the legalities of Bernie running on the Green ticket, and he was extremely positive. “Only Ohio and Texas would claim that he (Bernie) couldn’t be the Green Party nominee. There is no problem with simultaneous filing deadlines for president.  That is only a problem for other offices,” said the ballot-access expert.

“Only Ohio and Texas would claim that he (Bernie) couldn’t be the Green Party nominee.” ~ Richard Winger

Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein

And then there is the scenario that we all dread – Bernie does not get the nomination, and he does not continue to run. In this case, you could protest with a write-in vote, but it would only count if you lived in one of those nine states that have no restrictions. Instead of doing that, you could vote for Stein. By voting Green, you can: 1) protest the two horrendous candidates that we want nothing to do with, 2) have your vote count, and 3) help build a real progressive party that we can all make our own. To me, that would be a fantastic way to salvage a bad situation. However, for that to happen, the Greens must beat the deadlines and get on the ballot.

Why not give the Greens a hand? What do you have to lose? You’d be giving yourself, and possibly Bernie, a viable option if things do not work out at the convention.



19 thoughts on “Write-in Votes for Bernie are NOT an Option!

  1. Thank you for precise information.
    So, Green it is.
    My vote will always be a statement of who I want, not the lesser of evils.
    I was a Green in CA. Will go back but will change for every primary in MD. I hope to be such a pain in the ass for Maryland they will consider open primaries.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I will again repeat that I’d urged Bernie to run independently when I met him in January 2015. The information shared in the “open Letter” confirms one of the fears I had – without the Dem nom his campaign would have no viable option. I hadn’t thought the Greens would extend him an invitation, but even that is a narrow opening. Nevertheless, I’d like to see him explore that opening. Stumping for “down-ballot Bernie thinkers” is risky, I think, as a strategy to “keep hope alive”. It will be hard to for Berners like me to give significant amounts of money to multiple campaigns, especially for candidates whose credentials may be suspect. Otherwise, we’d have to use a superpac – a venal sin to many Bernie-crats. I admire Bernie for many things, including the confidence to go “all-in” for the Donkey crown. But now, the options to continue the movement-building are somewhat perilous, in my view. However, one necessary option is to build a “street-ready” operation to mobilize folks into the action that cannot wait 4 years: fixing Social Security, pushing for universal health care, and the fight for $15, among others.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Actually, at the POTUS level, sore-loser laws only apply in SD and TX, so that state employee didn’t know what they were talking about. SO, Bernie COULD run as an Independent, if he filed in time. I don’t think he appears to be applying for either status, however, and deadlines are going by.

    I plant to help get signatures for the Green Party to get on the ballot in my state so I at least have that option. You have to work on it NOW, not after the convention, though, because most signature deadlines are happening between now and mid to late July. A handful on Aug. 1 and 2.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The Illinois individual was wrong with regard to the “Sore Loser Law”. That law does not apply to presidential elections per ballotpedia, which references the 1980 campaign of John Anderson as precedent who switched to independent for the general and was still allowed to run. Texas looks to be true, but there was a slim chance of that going blue anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Paul, Winger says that the sore-loser law in Illinois would likely apply, but he has serious doubts as to whether it is enforceable. I updated the article, but I left it somewhat open because I am getting conflicting information. The bottom line is: whether the sore-loser laws are enforceable or not, Bernie has to register as a write-in in 41 states, and he has yet to do so.


  5. I have already started volunteering for the Greens In anticipation of Sanders move. We should follow his excellent example and base our moves and energy on real numbers and information. Berners, get to work! We can still do this!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. How do I help the green party get on the ballots in my state? I am Jessica Magers you can look me up or email me info. I want to help anyway I can.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. The natural collaboration of Bernie Sanders Progressives and the Green Party would be a win-win all around. ‘Green’ is a strong political brand that is internationally recognized, even translated Groen in Dutch, Grun in German, etc. Their combined worldview philosophy resonates with all of us who care about protecting the environment, the Planet Earth, and personal health and civil rights.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’d hope people give Jill Stein a good look. She deserves to have people consider her on her own merits, not just as Bernie’s fallback plan. I have always been a Stein supporter this election cycle. And I have known about Sanders longer than most of you who jumped on his bandwagon only in the last few months. I’ve known about him since his Iraq war vote and admired him for his integrity and honesty. But Jill Stein has advantages over him in my view on foreign policy (and a few other issues). So please look to Jill Stein with an unbiased interest for her own sake.


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