Voters should be aware that voting for a write-in candidate could have implications for their entire ballot.

Because machines cannot read write-in candidates accurately, if the unofficial canvas indicates that a write-in candidate may win, the votes will need to be manually tabulated—a process that varies based on the election equipment being used.

While manual tabulation may sound appealing to some, it is important to note that the election system is not currently set up for manual tabulation and whenever something out of the ordinary is used, it introduces complexity which could create significant issues.

Voters should be aware that voting for a write-in candidate could have implications for their entire ballot.

Voters should also consider that wide-spread write-in voting could create the need for more Polling Election Officials (PEOs) and consider working the polls.

For the best results, it may be wise to approach your Board of Election (BOE) well before the election to discuss the possibility of wide-spread write-in voting and to ask them how they plan to handle write-in votes. It may be helpful to bring information for them to review to aid them in setting up a plan.

Approaching your BOE with respect and courtesy can go a long way. Consider that write-in voting could significantly add to their load, and it may be daunting for them to get everything in order correctly and in time.

Ideas for discussion with BOEs:

    1. Ballots that have write-in candidates are to be segregated.
    2. These ballots are to be manually hand counted.
    3. If the voter has written in part of eligible write-in candidate name, the board of elections must count the vote, even if it’s only the first or last name. If there are multiple write-in candidates sharing a first or last name, the voter must provide enough information so make their intent clear.
    4. The official canvas must be done by hand if the criteria in the manual is met (chapter 10) and is to follow the procedures of the manual hand count outlined in Chapter 11 of the SoS’s Complete Election Official Manual

      If the criteria is met for the hand count:

      1. For Counties using Optical Scan ballots, teams must be comprised of at least two individuals, evenly divided between the two major political parties
      2. For Counties using Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) Voting machines as the primary method of voting, teams must be comprised of at least four individuals, evenly divided between the two major political parties
      3. Detailed instructions to follow are outlined in Chapter 11 of the SoS’s Complete Election Official Manual (
      4. Results must be reported to the SoS by the date the SoS specifies (on even years)
      5. When will the manual tabulation take place?


Additional questions
For counties that use optical scan ballots as primary form of voting

    1. How will ballots be segregated? Do the other votes on the ballot get counted in the tabulator? Does the machine have the capacity to segregate ballots with write-in candidates? If so, where is the compartment on the machines where the write-in ballots will be stored? If not, will all the ballots have to be manually inspected to segregate the ballots with write-in candidates?
    2. When will the manual tabulation be done?
      For counties that use DRE machines as primary form of voting
    3. When will the manual tabulation of the voter verified paper audit trail (“VVPAT”) & the manual tabulation of ballots be done?

For Voters on Election Day

    1. Understand that there may be implications for your entire ballot if you write in a candidate
    2. Try to write the candidate(s) name as close to the correct spelling as possible
    3. You can ask for a list of write-in candidates
    4. If using a DRE machine, you will be able to type in the candidate’s name(s)
    5. Ask how they will separate your ballot so your write-in vote can be manually counted (if using optical scan machine)
    6. Understand that the results reported on election day may be the total of write-ins and not the total of a specific candidate. In other words, the most likely scenario is you won’t know your write-in candidate’s results on election day if ever (you may have to wait for days).

For Other Candidates on the Ballot

    1. Understand that wide-spread voting for write-in candidates could affect the results of other races.

This article has been updated as more information was clarified. Italicized words are changed or added. For more information, read our latest post.

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