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US election word of the week: write-in

 © PhotoDiscIn this series we are looking at some of the language and terminology associated with the US electoral process in the run-up to the Presidential election in late 2016. This week’s word is write-in.

Write-in can refer both to a candidate whose name is not printed on the ballot paper and to a vote for such a candidate.



Not all states allow write-in votes, and most of those that do require the candidate to register beforehand in order for the votes to count. Almost one hundred people have already registered as write-in candidates in 35 states and more will surely follow as the campaign progresses, though the fact that one of them gives the name Mickey Mouse is an indication that not all the registrations are entirely serious.

Write in can also be a verb with this meaning, as is shown by this declaration from journalist Tim Horan:

After long, thoughtful consideration — something most in office fail to do — I am throwing my hat in the ring for president of the United States.
Write in Tim Horan on Nov. 8.

Horan’s candidacy probably falls into the ‘not entirely serious’ category, given that he promises to spend less than $500 and proposes to have Lady Gaga as his Secretary of State. It is theoretically possible for a write-in candidate to win the election, although write-in candidates who have gone on to win the Presidency in the past garnered write-in votes in the primaries, rather than in the general election.

Look out for the next post in this series. You can find past posts on the language of American politics here and here, or search for other posts in this series using the tag US politics.

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Liz Potter

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