Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill issued guidance Wednesday on casting a write-in vote in the December 12 special election for U.S. Senate. Democrat Doug Jones faces Republican Roy Moore in the race. Some have advocated for a write-in campaign on the Republican side amid sexual misconduct allegations against GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore.
Several women have accused Moore of inappropriate sexual behavior when they were teens and he was in his 30s.
Sen. Richard Shelby told reporters on Monday he voted for “a distinguished Republican write-in” rather than Moore. He didn’t say whose name he wrote in on the ballot. Other Republican leaders discussed a write-in campaign for Sen. Luther Strange, who lost the Republican primary to Moore.
Merrill’s office laid out the rules for write-ins in response to a large number of requests seeking clarification for the December 12 election. “The write-in process is simple but voters do need to be aware of how to cast their vote effectively and efficiently,” the secretary’s website says.
Here are the rules, according to the secretary of state:
Write-ins are for candidates not listed on the ballot. Write the person’s name in the “write-in” box and color in the “write-in” bubble for the vote to count.
For a straight-party ticket, it’ll select that party’s candidate where there is one, but a write-in vote overrides the straight-party ticket for that candidate’s race.
Spell the write-in candidates correctly, but it just needs to be “close enough” for election officials to know who a voter meant. Voters can write in a candidate’s initials and last name, but a last name only won’t count. Again, election officials must be able to identify the write-in.
No cartoon characters or superheros. “Write-in votes will be counted only for live, human beings who are eligible to serve in the office for which they have been voted,” the website says. And no stickers or stamps; the write-in vote must be handwritten.
Voting for someone who lost in the primary election? A write-in for that candidate will be counted.
But here’s the catch: write-in votes won’t necessarily be counted on election day, according to an Alabama law passed in 2016. And for a particular race, such as U.S. Senate, write-in votes are only counted if the total number of write-in votes is bigger than the difference between the first and second place candidates. So to use an example from the secretary of state, if Susan Franklin gets 300 votes and James Smith wins 200 votes, and there are 250 write-in votes, 250 is bigger than the 100 vote margin between Franklin and Smith. So in that case, the write-in votes would be counted.
If the total number of write-in votes is smaller than the difference between the top two candidates, then those votes aren’t counted. But Merrill’s office says write-in votes may be counted upon request.