It’s entirely possible to overanalyze the essentially meaningless write-in votes in any given election – to write too much into it, if you will.
But certainly there are lessons that can be found, both for candidates and for potential challengers, from the long lists of names voters choose to type into the touch-screen ballots. In Columbia County, for example, the list of write-ins runs 89 pages.
The biggest buzz about those names resulted from the huge write-in total for “Charles Darwin” in the race of 10th District U.S. Rep. Paul Broun. Most of Columbia County is now in the 12th District, but a handful of Columbia County voters in Broun’s race joined more than 4,000 across the 10th District in writing in the name of the long-dead father of evolutionary theory rather than voting for Broun, who had no Democratic challenger.
Oddly enough, Broun actually had a qualified write-in opponent. But the write-ins for Brian Russell Brown paled in comparison to the number of times Darwin’s name was written in as a protest against Broun’s recent comments that many viewed as anti-science.
Far less focused were all the names written in against other unopposed Columbia County officials. Sheriff Clay Whittle, state Sen. Bill Jackson, Probate Judge Alice Padgett, Tax Commissioner Kay Allen and Chief Magistrate-elect Jason Troiano, in that order, led with the highest numbers of write-ins as hundreds of voters typed in someone else’s name as a jest or in protest.
What does it matter? Not very much, really, except that those votes could be construed as an indication of the general dissatisfaction from voters at being greeted by a long ballot in which most races don’t have an opponent. It’s hard to feel like your vote matters if the people on the ballot win whether you show up or not.
Or whether you write in Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck.