While perusing a 2,360 Mb tome on New York’s State laws, I came across a topic that I had to discuss. Strangely enough the state most useful to my interest was on the news for another reason. The state of Alaska, home of Sarah Palin, is the state I choose to focus on.
Most high school students have experiences with write in candidates, the students who don’t run officially but end up running on that empty line. One of my fondest high school memories was when the senior class elected Chimp Pan Gee as their class president via write in. But has anyone ever won by being a write in candidate? While most elections have an empty line for write ins, can a write in actually win? Alaska provides us with the latest in what’s probably a short list of write-in successes.
There are several things to like about this strange situation covered by Joshua Saul for the Alaska Dispatch. It answers the question of whether spelling counts for write ins and whether the complete name is needed. Judge Patricia Collins’ decided to accept five ballots via write in for Daymond Hoffman. These five votes were enough to win him the election against Gary Lidholm by three votes. Had these votes not been counted Lidholm would have won by two votes. Two of the ballots voted for “D. Hoffman,” another just said “Hoffman,” and the last two didn’t even have postmarks (they were likely hand delivered). Even more bizarre is what followed. Hoffman said that he didn’t push for a recount or legal action for the sake of the community. What does this mean? Someone or some group was running a campaign for Hoffman without his knowledge. When Hoffman initially lost, this group appealed the decision. But the best part is that the group was composed of individuals and named “Haines Election Recount Organization” or “HERO.”
The other interesting point discussed is Lidholm’s and the borough attorney Michael Gatti’s counter argument: the votes should be invalid since Hoffman’s first name was omitted and the votes were too ambiguous or joking. Apparently, there could have been another write in named Hoffman.
My personal take on this is that write in candidates should just fill out the forms to officially run – even if it’s past the ballot printing deadline. Yes, it takes time but if you’re going to work for the government, you can at least tell them you’re applying for the job.
Tony Guo is a student at William and Mary School of Law