In addition to getting rid of "hanging chads" produced by the punch-card method of voting, the switch several years ago to the Diebold electronic voting machines had another consequence: It's now easier to cast a write-in vote.
For each election, a handful of people choose to skip a vote on candidates already listed for various races and instead use the convenient touch screen to write in another name.
Sometimes they list real people. Usually they don't. "Mickey Mouse" generally gets the most votes, though some variation of "none of the above" often is written in, too.
All those write-ins have one thing in common: They don't count. The effect on any given election is the same if the voter didn't vote in that race at all.
It is, however, possible to write in the name of a real candidate. But actually electing a write-in candidate is far more complicated than just picking a name and typing it in.
To be electable, a write-in candidate has to register. Columbia County Board of Elections Registration Coordinator Nancy Gay looked up the requirements for me, and in a nutshell this is how it works.
A potential write-in candidate for a Columbia County office in November's election first has to take out a legal ad in the county's legal organ - here, that's The News-Times - prior to the Sept. 7 deadline announcing the intention to run.
There isn't as much time as you'd think to get that done, though: Legal ads in The News-Times run on Sundays, and there's just one Sunday left before that date: Next Sunday, Sept. 5. The deadline for running a legal ad in that edition is 5 p.m. Monday.
After that ad runs, the person filing has five days to file more paperwork with the Board of Elections office. The process is similar for potential write-in candidates for state offices, with filing taking place at the secretary of state's office in Atlanta.
Then the real work begins. A certified write-in candidate has to make sure every potential voter knows how to spell his or her name, because the only acceptable votes are those in which the name of the candidate is written exactly as filed.
So, if John Q. Public qualifies, votes for John Public or J.Q. Public or John Q. Publick wouldn't count.
By the way: Eligibility to run as a write-in is the same as all other requirements for the office, with one exception in state law: "No person shall be eligible as a write-in candidate in a general or special election if such person was a candidate for nomination or election to the same office in the immediately preceding primary."
So, except for the two losing local candidates in this year's primary, just about anyone can qualify to run this fall as a write-in candidate if you hurry up and order that legal ad by 5 p.m. Monday.
Operators are standing by.
Let's clear this up: Did you know my wife is the principal of Stevens Creek Elementary School?
Actually, is there anyone who doesn't know?
A letter-writer last week claimed I was critical of the culprit in the case of the faked Facebook page because my wife works for the school system, and that I'd failed to disclose that fact.
I'm still trying to wrap my brain around the idea that somehow I'm supposed to be supportive of a person who defrauds a 16-year-old special needs student and draws such contempt toward him that the kid has to move to another school, and that if my wife weren't a school system employee, I would have approved of such behavior.
How absurd. In any event, a quick search tells me that at least eight times in the past three years, I've informed readers that my wife works for the school system. I've also said I have children in college, a house full of dogs and a 1964 Ford Galaxie 500; oddly enough, none of those facts have anything to do with whether I criticize criminal behavior, either.
I call 'em as I see 'em. And anyone who thinks otherwise is probably just disappointed that I didn't agree with their losing cause.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail email@example.com. Follow at twitter.com/barrypaschal.)
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.