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Data Snacks: Third Party and Write-Ins


Much has been written about the impact of third-party candidates on elections. The news this week from pundits claims that unaffiliated Senator Kyrsten Sinema would draw more votes away from Kari Lake than Ruben Gallego. No surprise.


Among friends, Adrian Fontes likes to remind us he received more votes than Mark Kelly. That’s true in many areas. Mark Kelly did extraordinarily well in precincts near every ASU campus. Tempe, Downtown, Thunderbird. Fontes outscored Kelly in conservative bastions. Pebble Creek, Cottonwood Country Club, New River, Rio Verde, Waddell, Wickenburg. Both candidates ran sophisticated, targeted campaigns so why the difference? There are two reasons you may not have thought about. 1. One is the concentration of voters around college campuses who can only vote in Federal races. Mark Kelly got more votes because more voters could vote for him. Additionally, students vote better at the top of the ticket because they are more likely to recognize the candidates. 2. A second reason is third party and write-in candidates who ran for Senate. There were more choices of candidates to vote for.


Here is the executive summary:

In Arizona, write-in candidates must register for their votes to be counted. When a voter writes-in “Mickey Mouse”, votes for The Mouse are tossed out because he’s not a registered write-in. It’s why you never see the total number of votes for Mickey – and you know there are some.


In the 2022 the Secretary of State contest had candidates from two parties: Democrat and Republican. In the US Senate race we cast votes for candidates in the three recognized parties: Democrat, Republican and Libertarian. In addition, we had 8 registered write-ins who garnered 1464 votes in the US Senate race. A small number, but one that would have more than destroyed a Kris Mayes Attorney General race.


In fact, there was a registered write-in for the AG race. Samantha Severson didn’t qualify to run on the official Libertarian Party ticket (or didn’t try). She ran as a registered write-in instead and collected 418 votes in this squeaker contest that was won by 280.


Third party votes and write-ins, registered or not, DO matter. In 2024 we will have 4 recognized Parties with the recognition of No Labels as a party in Arizona (maybe Joe Manchin, maybe Sinema), and will still have all of those write-ins.


Check this story about how a non-registered write-in changed the outcome of a local race. His votes were tossed out. Do ballot write-ins count?


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