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Are write-ins wasted votes, or wasted jokes?

Posted: August 8, 2012 - 12:01am  |  Updated: August 15, 2012 - 3:23pm

Even though they don’t count for anything, it’s easy to understand the write-in votes for candidates in uncontested races as a protest, or an unwillingness to endorse the presumed winner.

But why in the world would someone deprive him or herself of a vote in a contested race?

In the July 31 primary, voters could write in another candidate’s name in any of the non-partisan races. At the top of the ticket was a long list of races for state judgeships (state supreme court and court of appeals) with no opposition.

That’s not unusual; sitting judges rarely draw opposition. But one in our district did when Willie Saunders stepped up to challenge not just a sitting judge, but the Augusta Judicial Circuit’s chief judge – Carlisle Overstreet.

From the beginning, few people gave Saunders much of a chance in the race. Among other things, challengers have a tough time raising money against a sitting judge, who routinely can count on the hefty financial support of fellow attorneys. That was amply demonstrated when Overstreet brought in nearly 100 times the amount of donations Saunders received.

It also hurt Saunders badly that he’s working his way through bankruptcy, and had to fight a legal challenge to his candidacy from an attorney who also is an Overstreet supporter.

Because of all that drama, the race certainly attracted lots of interest. Too little of the interest in any of the races attracted people to Columbia County’s elections, however, with nearly three-quarters of voters staying home.

Of those who managed to vote, 24 decided to opt out of the judge’s race by cracking a joke instead. Rather than choose either Overstreet or Saunders, these voters wrote in the names of other judges (David Roper, Wade Padgett – misspelled as “Pagent” – and David Watkins) along with ever-popular cartoon characters Goofy and Mickey Mouse (twice). The Democratic Party even got a vote, as did “neither” and “none.”

There also was a hotly contested race for the District 1 school board seat. That one isn’t settled yet, as David Dekle and Carolyn Chase will meet in the Aug. 21 runoff. Rather than vote for either of them in the primary, or third candidate Brian Slowinski, 13 voters instead wrote in such things as “dunno,” “anyone” and “none of these.” One person also wrote in the name of District 4 candidate Deborah Fisher.

Not to worry: In the District 4 race, two voters wrote in votes for District 4 candidate Slowinski.

The write-ins for uncontested races are understandable, though I’m pretty sure “Barrack Hussein Obama,” “Thomas Jefferson” and “The Beatles” aren’t interested in the school board chairmanship. But going all the way to the polls and then blowing a chance to have a choice in a real contest? I just don’t get it.

Mickey Mouse does, though. He got outvoted in the uncontested school chairmanship race, six write-ins to five, by Deborah Fisher.

(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. Email barry.paschal@newstimes online.com, or call 706-863-6165, extension 106. Follow at twitter.com/
barrypaschal.)

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