Can You Write-in For Bernie or Pence?

write-in-votes1It’s something people talk about but don’t often end up acting on, or for that matter knowing about.

When it comes to this election though, the idea of ‘write-in candidates’ has become more pronounced, particularly with supporters for Bernie Sanders who don’t want to vote Clinton, let alone Trump. The same is becoming true on the other side of the ticket, with at least two members of Congress (New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte, and Ohio Senator Rob Portman) are saying they’re going to write in Pence because they can’t vote Trump. Or maybe you’re a Green supporter and your state doesn’t have Stein on the Ballot. Either way, this piece is for you.

Yet many states have laws and restrictions governing the use and availability of write-in candidates while others don’t permit them at all. If you’re in a state that doesn’t permit them, or write in a candidate that hasn’t met the regulations, you won’t get to see that one little ‘protest vote’ of yours in the vote tally at the end, it’ll just be tossed with the invalid/defaced ballots meaning your carefully thought out (!) idea had as much impact as drawing a penis (and no, drawing a vagina with the caption ‘grab here’ won’t count for Trump either).

In addition, one thing most people (including most Americans) don’t realize is that there is not one set of election laws. There are some Federal regulations, but the vast majority of election laws and regulations are at the state level. The same is true for political parties – each state has its own separate political party that registered in accordance with that states laws, there are no such things as Federal registrations of political parties, which means that nationwide there’s a hodgepodge of 50+ different laws and regulations, some of which conflict. So just because your friend in Phenix City, Alabama is going to write in Bernie, doesn’t mean that you, across the Chattahoochee river in Columbus, Georgia can.

The short answer is going to be ‘no’ though. In all but a handful of states, any write-in candidate needs to be registered for it to count, and many states prohibit write-in candidates from registering, if they’re already on the ballot (as Pence is) or had previously run in the primary (Sanders).

So here’s a list of the laws and regulations concerning write-in candidates in the 50 states (and DC) with a massive hat tip and thanks to ballotpedia, who made this research so painless. (and a big F**K YOU to LexisNexis, for making state laws so hard to reference, for claiming b*llshit copyrights, and having a really badly designed website that treats multiple state viewings as a commercial use; and special ‘up yours’ to the state legislators that signed off on selling state laws to a private company, you should be ashamed of yourselves. This goes double for Tennessee who also make such badly written laws, I can’t tell if you can or not.)


While every effort has been made to be as accurate as possible, reliance on this data is entirely at own risk. If in doubt, contact the appropriate state election authority.


States where you can NOT write-in a candidate for President:

  • Arkansas
  • Hawaii
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • Nevada
  • New mexico
  • Oklahoma
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota

States you can write in with NO restrictions:

  • Alabama
  • Iowa
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont

States which require a write-in candidate to be registered (and the registration deadline)

  • Oregon (5 December)
  • Washington D.C. (11 November)
  • Wyoming (10 November)
  • Alaska (3 November)
  • Arizona (3 November)
  • Minnesota (1 November)
  • Missouri (1 November)
  • Nebraska (1 November)
  • Kansas (30 October)
  • Virginia (29 October)
  • Kentucky (28 October)
  • California (25 October)
  • Connecticut (25 October)
  • Wisconsin (25 October)
  • North Dakota (21 October)
  • Washington (21 October)
  • Maryland (20 October)
  • New York (18 October)
  • Idaho (11 October)
  • Montana (1 October)
  • Delaware (30 September)
  • Michigan (29 September)
  • Maine (25 September)
  • West Virginia (20 September)
  • Massachusetts (9 September)
  • Utah (9 September)
  • Illinois (8 September)
  • Georgia (6 September)
  • Ohio (29 August)
  • Texas (22 August)
  • North Carolina (10 August)
  • Colorado (21 July)
  • Florida (12 July)
  • Indiana (3 July)

Tennessee could be September 19, or could not be allowed at all. State statutes were not clear.

Laws reference