Barry Saunders

That write-in may not be a waste if it sends a message – Saunders

A campaign poster from Barry Saunders’ write-in campaign for the Rockingham City Council in the early ’80s. He got 14 votes.
A campaign poster from Barry Saunders’ write-in campaign for the Rockingham City Council in the early ’80s. He got 14 votes. Courtesy of Barry Saunders

I don’t know about you, but the rationale for just about every stupid decision I’ve ever made can be summed up thusly: seemed like a good idea at the time.

Why, I’ll just waste my vote for president. That’ll show’em how disenchanted I am with the candidates on the ballot.

To the 59,491 North Carolina voters who did so last month, writing in at the top of their ballot the name of a cartoon character or a dead president or some taciturn comedian, it must’ve seemed like a good idea at the time. It may have even been good for a yuck or two down at the Crooked Window or whichever watering hole they haunted afterward.

Let’s hope they’re still able to give a yuck a year from now, because just as that extra three cookies or glass of eggnog will spend a second on the lips but an eternity on the hips, a thrown away vote could torment you for years.

The percentage of registered voters who cast ballots this year – about 69 percent – was nearly the same as it was in 2012 and 2008. The portion of votes that went to write-in candidates, though, was four times higher than it was in 2008 and nearly five times higher than in 2012.

Are we merely paying lip service when we say that voting is a sacred tenet, the cornerstone of our democracy?

Appears that way, doesn’t it? How else can one explain – much less defend – throwing away one’s vote when the political direction of the country is at stake?

One can even justify casting a vote – as some cynical Carolinian did – for Adam Sandler. If he were occupying the White House, the reasoning likely went, he’d be too busy to make any more movies. Who can deny that what’s good for keeping Adam Sandler off movie screens is good for America?

Sure, voting for “God” or “Jesus Christ” is defensible. Perhaps if elected, He’d shake the earth like an Etch-a-Sketch and start over from scratch.

Even casting a ballot for LeBron James made sense. Maybe if he were president, he’d take executive action requiring NBA officials to call traveling after that fourth step to the basket. That would certainly make NBA games more watchable.

One can even justify casting a vote – as some cynical Carolinian did – for Adam Sandler. If he were occupying the White House, the reasoning likely went, he’d be too busy to make any more movies. Who can deny that what’s good for keeping Adam Sandler off movie screens is good for America?

Write-in ballots can be a great way to get a message across or even, in rare instances, to elect a candidate who for some reason or another was left off the ballot.

Most of the time, though, a write-in ballot is just time and a ballot wasted. When I ran for Rockingham’s city council as a write-in candidate, my campaign slogan was “You can’t miss if you write in this.”

My other slogan – “Elect a man and a half” – was taken from Wilson Pickett. Voters apparently didn’t want that extra half and I wound up receiving 14 votes.

Even a Canadian bank teller – disqualified by law from running – received 95 write-in votes in North Carolina. Of course, he had legally changed his name to “None of the Above.”

Barry Saunders: 919-836-2811, @BarrySaunders9

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