Chris Miksanek: Even joke votes get counted
Chris Miksanek

2006 Chris Miksanek




This is one of my favorite ones..

It was published in the November 10th 2006 issue of the Minneapolis - St. Paul Star Tribune.


Chris Miksanek: Even joke votes get counted




Chris Miksanek: Even joke votes get counted

Election judges have to treat them as legitimate because a write-in might actually be sincere.

Chris Miksanek

On election night, in tens of thousands of precincts across America, and many right here, paid judges manually tallied the votes for the lesser-known candidates. If you had to wait until the wee hours of the morning for the results of your local race, don't blame the election judges, the sometimes confusing process, or any conspiracy. Blame Jim Shoe.

While technology can speed the tabulation for major candidates when ballots are properly completed, and Tuesday it did just that for most of the 2.2 million votes cast across the state, what it can't do is infer. The optical scanners and touch screens can't tally cynicism. The technology can't distinguish between a legitimate write-in vote cast as an alternative to the major parties in angst and one cast as a sophomoric prank. And the technology can't decipher chicken scratch!

For those reasons, election judges must dig in for what is inevitably a long night of tabulating what the machines redirect for manual enumeration.

To be sure, the provision for a write-in vote is the ultimate demonstration of democracy. You can vote for whomever you want (though in some states, paradoxically, you have to "qualify" as a write-in first). Still, what is remarkable is that every vote is handled respectfully whether it is cast for a living human being or an animated Great Dane who drives around with a gang of teens solving mysteries.

In all cases, it's necessary to treat them as legitimate because a write-in may actually be sincere. The silly ones like "Goofy,"Bozo the Clown" and "Michael Rowdeboatashore," of course, are easy to dismiss, but who is to say, for instance, that Al Sharpton wouldn't make a good soil and water supervisor?

In fact, who is to say that it was even the Al Sharpton who was being endorsed at the poll on at least one ballot I reviewed? And who is to say it was even the Sam Spade, the Tom Jones, or the Mickey Mouse on other ballots I counted? After all, there are probably a lot of similar names in this country of 300 million, and no doubt many have unfortunate ones like "Harry Back" and "Gail Forcewinds."

So we take them all seriously and carefully tabulate them. Because even though write-ins are often statistically insignificant and typically phony, someone named Moe Lhassis, Justin Thyme or Chris Santhemum may just be the next president of the United States.


Chris Miksanek was an election judge in Rochester, Minn.

All material presented here is Copyright 2006 Chris Miksanek
Last updated: November 10, 2006