Counting Write-In Votes

Lynda Roberts, Registrar of Voters, Elections

Background

The votes for qualified write-in candidates are tallied after all of the ballots are counted. It is one of the last steps in the canvass before the election is certified. There are separate tallies for VBM, Provisional and polls ballots.

Rules for Counting Write-In Votes (EC Sec. 15342)

  • Qualified write-in candidates are those who filed nomination papers according to EC Sec. 8600. Only votes for qualified write-in candidates for the correct contest shall be counted.
  • The Registrar of Voters provides a list of qualified write-in candidates to each polling place and to vote-by-mail voters on request. As the end of the write-in period is 14 days before the election and the first day to mail VBM ballots is 29 days before the election, it is up to the write-in candidate to campaign for vote-by-mail votes.
  • Any name written on the ballot for a qualified write-in candidate shall be counted, including a reasonable facsimile of the spelling of a name written in the blank write-in space.
  • Count the write-in vote even if the oval next to the write-in space is not filled in (new law in 2012).
  • The use of pressure-sensitive stickers, glued stamps, or any other device not provided for in the voting procedures to indicate the name of the write- in candidate are not valid and the write-in vote shall not be counted.
  • Do not count write-ins where the contest has been overvoted.
  • All valid write-in votes shall be tabulated and included in the official returns for the precinct.

Procedures for Counting Write-In Votes

Counting Write-In Votes on Central Count Ballots

Vote-by-mail, mail ballot precincts, and provisional ballots are counted through the central count process. The staff operating the central count scanners scans all ballots, including those with write-in votes. (When the ballots are scanned, all of the votes on them have been counted.) If a ballot has a write-in vote on it, the staff removes the ballot from the batch of counted ballots and places it in a "write-in box". When the ballot counting is complete, the ballots in the write-in box are routed to the Write-in Board for tallying the qualified write-in candidates.

Prepare tally sheets with the names of all of the qualified write-in candidates. Use separate tally sheets for each precinct and tally the write-in candidates by type of ballot (VBM, POLLS, etc.)

Assign write-in boards in teams of 2.

Beginning with the vote-by-mail ballots, work on one precinct at a time. Write the precinct number on the tally sheet and examine each ballot in the precinct for write-in voters. Make the following notations next to each name written in on the ballot:

  • Mark Q ("qualified write-in candidate") next to the names of each of the qualified write-in candidates on the ballot;
  • Mark NQ (not qualified) next to the names of each of the non-qualified candidates;
  • Mark OV (overvote) next to the name of a write-in candidate where the voter has also voted for a candidate on the ballot.

For each precinct count the total number of write-in votes for each contest and compare this number with the total number of write-in for the precinct on the SOV. If these two numbers match, it means that all ballots with write-in votes are accounted for. If there are more write-in votes on the SOV than counted on the ballots, search for additional ballots with write-in votes in that precinct.

Begin counting the votes for the write-in candidates after making sure that the number of write-in votes on the ballots matches the number of write-in votes recorded on the SOV.

One person reads the names of each of the qualified write-in candidates while one person marks the tally sheets for each write-in candidate for the precinct. Supervisor observes count.

Counting Write-In Votes on Ballots Counted at the Precinct

Precinct ballots have been counted at the polls and are stored in sealed boxes according to the number of the polling place. One polling place may have one or more precincts in a box. There may be more than one box for some polling places.

Assign write-in board in teams of 2.

Use the Statement of Votes Cast (SOV) to determine the number of write-in votes in each precinct.

Open one precinct box at a time and pull out the ballots that have write-in votes. For each precinct count the total number of write-in votes for each contest and compare this number with the total number of write-in votes on the SOV. If these two numbers match, it means that all ballots with write-in votes are accounted for. If there are more write-in votes on the SOV than counted on the ballots, search for additional ballots with write-in votes in that precinct.

Begin counting the votes for the write-in candidates after making sure that the number of write-in votes on the ballots matches the number of write-in votes recorded on the SOV.

Examine each ballot and mark next to the names of each of the write-in votes as follows:

  • Mark Q ("qualified write-in candidate") next to the names of each of the qualified write-in candidates on the ballot;
  • Mark NQ (not qualified) next to the names of each of the non-qualified candidates;
  • Mark OV (overvote) next to the name of a write-in candidate where the voter has also voted for a candidate on the ballot.

Tally the write-in votes as follows:

  • One person reads the names of each of the qualified write-in candidates while one person marks the tally sheets for each candidate in each precinct.
  • Supervisor observes the count.

Procedures.canvass.counting write-in votes. Rev. 6/7/2012