Write-in votes prove inadequate form of protest

Olivia Griffin

Editor's note: This column appears in a point-counterpoint regarding the legitimacy of write-in votes. To find its counterpoint, click here.

This election cycle is far from perfect, but voting for a write-in candidate won’t solve anything. Suck it up, pick a real candidate and go vote.

First, Texas has strict laws regarding write-in candidates at all levels. Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz are not legal write-in candidates in Texas. A vote for either is considered an “abstain” vote and is not recorded by officials nor included in the final vote count. Additionally, Texas election laws have strict regulations for write-in votes to be valid. Write-in candidates must declare candidacy and name a running mate, file paperwork and pay the registration fee with the state by Aug. 22 and provide written pledges of support from 38 registered voters. Unsuccessful primary candidates are prohibited from registering as a write-in candidate in the general election due to “sore loser” laws in Texas.

Many who support write-in candidates argue they are a tool that enables democracy and supports the views of all people through our electoral institutions. Yet voter turnout in Texas remains dismal; in the 2016 Presidential Primary, 92.56 percent and 85.31 percent of eligible Democrats and Republicans, respectively, did not vote. Nationally, 71.5 percent of eligible voters abstained. The problem here isn’t a “rigged” system, it’s low voter turnout, and casting a desperate, last-ditch protest vote several months after the fact won’t solve anything. Many argue for write-ins because they feel forced to choose between two lackluster candidates or feel silenced by the mainstream political process. This is a weak argument, because the candidates were not forced on voters, and writing in a candidate perpetuates the problem of low voter turnout that led us here in the first place.

As dysfunctional as our two-party system is, adding more parties and write-in candidates would make things worse. If there are too many parties, Washington will face the same fate as the GOP after the public opinion was sparsely spread across 16 candidates, allowing a minority figure like Trump to represent the party. Writing in candidates divides the majority party and adds momentum to the rise of third parties. Concentrating public support between two radically different candidates rather than an unlimited number of relatively similar candidates prevents radical candidates from being elected and allows for more moderate candidates.

Do not throw away your vote this fall by writing in another candidate. It is a destructive, lazy and ineffective means of protest that will cause more harm than good.

Griffin is a government and Plan II junior  from Dallas. Follow her on Twitter @OGlikesdogs.