Could Bernie Sanders Win the Presidency as a Write-In Candidate?

Some Bernie Sanders supporters want to put the Vermont senator in a position to play spoiler in the presidential election.

  • Published 15 October 2016

Even though Vermont senator Bernie Sanders was unsuccessful in his efforts to claim the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, some of his supporters have pushed the idea that he could be elected President despite his not having been nominated by any political party for that position.

One report (which has since been retracted) asserted that the senator had been “certified in all 50 states” as a write-in option for voters.

Under current rules, 34 states — including the swing state of Ohio — require candidates to file paperwork before write-in votes for them can be counted. Another nine states (Arkansas, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and South Dakota) don’t count write-in votes for presidential elections.

Sanders’ home state of Vermont (along with Alabama, Delaware, Iowa, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Oregon) does allow for write-in presidential votes to be counted, but officials in Vermont and Iowa told us that write-in votes in their states would not default to selecting electors for Bernie Sanders, because he did not declare himself a general election candidate there.

John Bennett, a spokesperson for Alabama’s Secretary of State office, did posit a more encouraging scenario for Sanders supporters:

As long as write-in votes for Sanders spelled his name correctly, his votes would be counted. If he received the majority of votes among presidential candidates, he would win all nine of the state’s Electoral College votes.

Another theory states that Sanders voters could put him into position to win by denying both Clinton and Republican Party nominee Donald Trump the 270 electoral vote majority necessary to clinch the presidency. The presidential choice under that scenario would then be put into the hands of House of Representatives:

If no candidate receives a majority of Electoral votes, the House of Representatives elects the President from the 3 Presidential candidates who received the most Electoral votes. Each state delegation has one vote. The Senate would elect the Vice President from the 2 Vice Presidential candidates with thAe most Electoral votes. Each Senator would cast one vote for Vice President. If the House of Representatives fails to elect a President by Inauguration Day, the Vice-President Elect serves as acting President until the deadlock is resolved in the House.

However, polling has shown a surge in Hillary Clinton’s momentum, and Sanders himself has thrown his support behind the former secretary of state and discouraged his own supporters from casting “protest votes” for him in this year’s election.

On 28 October 2016, the California Secretary of State’s office included Sanders on its list of certified write-in presidential candidates, after an online campaign succeeded in securing 55 write-in electors pledging themselves to the senator.

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