Your options on the Virginia ballot for the next President may seem a bit limited: Republican Donald J. Trump, Democrat Hillary Clinton, Libertarian Gary Johnson, Green Party candidate Jill Stein, and independent Evan McMullin.
You have even fewer choices in North Carolina, where only Trump, Clinton, and Johnson met the requirements to be on the ballot.
But what about a write-in as an alternative? More people than ever before are thinking about writing in another candidate.
There's proof. Google search trends for "write in vote" from 2004 to now in the United States had a massive spike after August.
And who are they thinking of writing in? Some of the top related searches are Bernie Sanders, Ron Paul, John Kasich and Mickey Mouse.
But before you opt to write in, know this:
“If you write your own name in or the name of some other candidate, that won't get counted. We only count certain candidates that were approved by the State Board of Elections,” said Charlie Collicutt with the Guilford County, North Carolina Board of Elections.
It's the same in Virginia, as well. Only a candidate approved by the State Board of Elections can be considered as a write-in candidate.
To be approved in Virginia, a person must have declared their candidacy and then filed a slate of 13 electors with state elections officials, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. The 13 electors are the equivalent of Virginia's 13 electoral votes.
The rules are a little different across the border in North Carolina, but can still be daunting. Someone only qualifies as a write-in candidate in the Tar Heel State if they present a petition with at least 500 signatures.
This year, the Green Party's Jill Stein is the only one to do that in the Presidential race. She had a petition of about 1,100 people.
So it might not count, but most people who write in don't actually think their candidate will win. The whole point of writing in someone to show your protest. Let people know about someone else who should have been on the ballot.
Well unless it's an approved write-in candidate such as Jill Stein in North Carolina, election officials don't even track who your write-in is. So no one is going to find out about your protest vote.
“We'll look for the approved names and report those at canvas. Any of the other names, we may document them somewhere. But there's no requirement that we do that,” Collicutt said. “Any write-in votes that are not cast for one of the approved candidates will just be termed miscellaneous."
The bottom line is, you've got one vote. No matter who you pick, make sure it counts.
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