With only 8 percent turnout, Tuesday’s local elections didn’t exactly go out with a bang. That’s too bad; city government has much more impact on voters’ daily lives than such a paltry showing suggests. Yes, some races were uncontested, but several ballots also included write-in candidates.
Was that a reaction to perceived lack of competition, late planning perhaps? What are the write-in rules anyway? What if 100 people write in “Charlie Brown” on an election day whim?
That was one topic of conversation in the newsroom Tuesday night. I found answers in Title 34 of Idaho Code. Chapters 7 and 14 cover elections, from voter and candidate qualifications to how elections are conducted, including write-ins.
Sorry, Charlie. Turns out even write-ins have to plan.
First, state law distinguishes between partisan and non-partisan offices. For nonpartisan offices — those with no party affiliation indicated on the ballot, nor primary needed (e.g., city councils, mayors, fire commissioners) — under section 34-1407 a write-in candidate must:
• File a declaration of intent at least 45 days before the election, and
• Be legally qualified under state law to hold that office.
For partisan offices (legislature, governor, county commissioners, statewide offices), according to sections 34-702 and 702A a write-in candidate must:
• File a declaration of intent at least 28 days before the election,
• Be legally qualified under state law to hold that office,
• Receive a minimum number of write-in votes in the primary: 1,000 for any statewide office, 500 for Congress, 50 for legislature, or five votes for a county office, and
• If a write-in candidate wins a primary, they must file a declaration of candidacy and pay a filing fee for that office within 10 days.
In Idaho, judges can’t run as write-ins. Eight states don’t allow write-ins at all, and 31 more like Idaho require advance declaration of some kind.
Kootenai County elections manager Carrie Phillips cautions that for a write-in vote to be effective, the voter must both fill in the oval and write the person’s name in.
“If someone fills in the oval and writes in a name for a person under an office that did not have a declared write-in, that vote does not count,” Phillips told The Press.
That knocks out the occasional vote for Mickey Mouse, Santa, and Joe the Plumber — who seem to make regular appearances on national ballots. Good grief, Charlie Brown.
Sholeh Patrick is a Snoopy fan and columnist for the Hagadone News Network. Contact her at Sholeh@cdapress.com.