'Kanye for President?'

Chatham write-ins lighten election mood

Posted 11/26/20

Chatham’s votes from the Nov. 3 election are now almost finalized; recounts in the Dist. 5 commissioners’ race and the N.C. Supreme Court chief justice seat were completed Monday, and …

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'Kanye for President?'

Chatham write-ins lighten election mood

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Editor's note: Chatham’s votes from the Nov. 3 election are now almost finalized; recounts in the Dist. 5 commissioners’ race and the N.C. Supreme Court chief justice seat were completed Monday, and certification is all that’s left. Given that, we asked our reporter Lars Dolder, who’s helped with the newspaper’s election coverage, to check out the 1,109 write-in votes cast by local residents. Here’s his report.

This year’s election news, much of which I’ve covered for Chatham County in the past few months, has been dominated by accounts of voter protestation — voters crying election fraud, election tampering, election indiscretion.

But little attention has been given to a time-honored tradition of quiet voter protest: write-in voting.

I get why. Write-ins represent less than 1% of the total vote. But 1% of this country is still more than 3 million people, and lots of folks in Chatham, so this is their story.

And why shouldn’t we recognize the stoic determination to overcome impossible odds just to get one’s way? Isn’t that the American dream? We give platforms to the Constitution and Green parties, and they earned a smaller proportion of votes than write-ins.

Besides, the romantic notion of ousting crotchety old politicians with a surprise write-in landslide isn’t totally unprecedented. On rare occasion, organized write-in campaigns have seated candidates in even prominent roles.

For example, back in 1954, Strom Thurmond won his place in the U.S. Senate from a wave of write-in support, and he stayed there more than 40 years.

But Thurmond had previously been a governor. Constituents knew his record of public service.

Interesting, then, that most write-in candidates seem woefully unqualified for their prospective assignments.

Kanye West was the winner of Chatham’s write-in contest for president, but it makes sense. The Wyoming preacher (and one-time musician? husband of a Kardashian?) was one of few in the country this year to make a genuine call for write-in support.

“Keep believing in Kanye 2020,” he posted on his Twitter on Nov. 3 after casting what he said was “the first vote of my life.”

Out of Chatham’s 110 write-in votes for president, Kanye got nine. That’s almost 10% — not bad. And it’s three percentage points ahead of second place in the write-in race.

If you’re reading this, Kanye, congratulations on your victory. You commanded a decisive lead and you should be proud. It’s not like the competition was light.

Coming in at number two was none other than Mike Pence, vice president and strong contender for a 2024 run at the presidency. Little did he know that almost 6% of Chatham write-in voters would have him elected now.

In third place, things get interesting. Five would-be candidates each received 5% of the vote. Thank goodness they didn’t tie for first place or the runoff would have been nasty. Bernie Sanders, Mitt Romney, Andrew Yang and Paul Ryan were strong candidates. But the fifth third-place vote-getter comes as something of a surprise: Florida powerlifter Brian Carroll. He recently squatted 1,306 lbs, the biggest of all time. That would make him a good president, right?

Some classic write-in favorites fell tragically flat in this year’s election. “Hilliary Clinton” earned just one vote. Jesus got three; Keanu Reeves one. “God” did not appear, but Donald Duck did.

Many athletes appeared in the write-in rosters, but not for president. It seems voters associate superstar athleticism with academic prowess. Robert Griffin III, Chris Paul, Larry Bird and Anthony Davis all received votes for the Chatham County Board of Education, maybe in a last-ditch voter bid to elect representatives who might reopen school athletic programs full throttle.

The biggest write-in turnout was for Chatham Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisor. The incumbent, J. Lynn Mann, ran uncontested, and voters took the opportunity at the end of the ballot to have some fun.

One curmudgeonly voter wrote in for Ebenezer Scrooge. In contrast, another called for Jimmy Buffett. Napoleon Dynamite earned a vote and makes a compelling case for elected official. It’s been 16 years since he ran Pedro’s killer campaign — imagine his political acumen now.

Perhaps the strangest ballots cast in this year’s election were those which didn’t include any specific person. Acceptable standards for politicians have declined, but so far most agree a human must still fill the seat. “None,” “blank,” “N/A” and “anyone else” received a cumulative 55 votes. “Truth” got another. “Republican” and “Democrat” both received write-ins, begging the question why their writers didn’t vote for the Republican or Democrat listed on the ballot.

Mr. T, Cthulhu, Bugs Bunny and Richard Nixon are honorable mentions, but my favorite write-in vote was an easy choice — “(illegible) Buritos.” It’s so utterly befuddling, so quizzically nonsensical, that I’ve pondered its meaning for a week. Is it a reference I don’t understand? A joke I haven’t heard? Might (illegible) Buritos actually make for a qualified president? The questions go on and on. If the author of this masterpiece should happen to read my article, please reach out. You must be a fascinating person.

Reporter D. Lars Dolder can be reached at dldolder@chathamnr.com and on Twitter @dldolder.

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