Troubles of Anti-Trump/Clinton Write-ins

Distraught over the likely choice of Trump or Clinton, many Americans are thinking about third parties or write-ins, but the process is harder than one might expect, like much else about the U.S. electoral system, notes William John Cox.

By William John Cox

With the increasingly likelihood of a presidential contest between the generally despised Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, millions of angry voters are considering protesting the lineup by either sitting out the election or writing in alternatives.

With almost one-third of all eligible voters already failing to participate in elections, a greater abdication of voting responsibility in an election between the lesser of two evils could lead to a tyranny of the minority. On the other hand, by carefully writing in the names of their true choices, voters can exercise the only power available to them. If sufficiently widespread, such a protest could have a lasting effect on the course of the nation, including the abandonment of the two major political parties and the emergence of new — more relevant — alignments.

The White House

The White House

The beauty of a massive write-in protest vote is its bipartisan appeal. There may be as many “Never Trump” Republicans unwilling to hold their noses and vote for Donald Trump, as there are progressive Democrats who are proclaiming “Bernie or Bust” in their opposition to Hillary Clinton. Even those voting for Libertarian and Green Party presidential candidates, in states where they are not qualified, might consider doing so by writing in their choices.

The only problem is that — with the control of voting left up to the states by the Constitution and with tabulation taking place on the local and county level — most write-in votes would not be counted.

Under state laws, political parties must “qualify” for their candidates to be listed on the ballots and counted. The two major parties are qualified in every state, but the Libertarian Party candidates will appear on the ballots in only 33 states, the Green Party in 21, and the Constitution Party in 13.

By definition, the names of write-in candidates are not listed on ballots; however, interested candidates must still file various forms of paperwork in 35 states for their votes to be counted, and seven states do not allow write-in votes for presidential candidates. While permitted in the remaining eight states, votes for write-in candidates may not be counted or reported by local registrars.

Even after the end of this year’s political conventions and the statutory period to qualify for the ballots in individual states, steps could still be taken by alternative candidates, such as Bernie Sanders or an establishment Republican, to register a willingness to accept write-in votes in those states where they are permitted.

A Possible Amendment

All of this could change with the enactment of the U.S. Voters’ Rights Amendment (USVRA), which would finally guarantee that every citizen has the right to cast effective votes in all elections. In addition, the USVRA mandates a national, hand-countable paper ballot in all federal elections, allows write-in candidates for all federal offices, and requires that all such votes be counted.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressing the AIPAC conference in Washington D.C. on March 21, 2016. (Photo credit: AIPAC)

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressing the AIPAC conference in Washington D.C. on March 21, 2016. (Photo credit: AIPAC)

Moreover, for presidential elections, the ballots would list the 12 most critical questions facing the Nation, compelling all candidates to actually address the true issues. The People would be better informed and empowered to make their own national policy — and to elect representatives most qualified to carry out their policies.

A national policy referendum, in conjunction with presidential elections, would create broad federal guidelines, rather than binding laws. Elected representatives would be expected to carry out the policies and direction of the People, and could be held accountable if they fail to do so.

Rather than responding to billions of dollars in negative advertising about the inadequacies of opposition candidates, a barrage of slick promotional propaganda concealing those deficiencies, and misleading party platforms, voters in the 2016 election should have the power to create policy for themselves.

They should decide whether international trade pacts should be approved; the cap on Social Security withholding taxes should be eliminated; a supplemental national retirement system should be enacted; space-solar energy should be generated to energize the national highways in lieu of a reliance on polluting petroleum products; and whether the crumbling national infrastructure should be repaired and upgraded.

The People should have a direct say about whether the war on drugs should end and private prisons should be prohibited. Those most affected by domestic policies should decide whether everyone has a right to national health care; whether paid maternity leave should be provided; women should have the freedom of choice in childbearing; and everyone should have the right to marry whomsoever they chose. Voters who are smart enough to earn a paycheck and pay taxes are certainly qualified to decide if a national minimum wage should be guaranteed; all existing student loans should be forgiven; the right to education extended through college; and whether military spending should be reduced.

Instead of an income tax disproportionally imposed on salaried workers and small business owners, the People should have the right to decide whether government initiatives are to be paid for by a tiny tax on the movement of all money in the economy, including stock and currency transactions and the financial manipulations of all banks, insurance companies, and other corporations. In doing so, the burden of taxation would be lifted from those who work the hardest and shifted to those who profit the most from our economy.

Archaic Rules

Those who founded the United States and drafted its Constitution did not trust the vast majority of its citizens to vote. They left voting questions up to the states and established the Electoral College — rather than a majority vote of the People — to elect the president and vice president.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaking to the AIPAC conference in Washington D.C. on March 21, 2016. (Photo credit: AIPAC)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaking to the AIPAC conference in Washington D.C. on March 21, 2016. (Photo credit: AIPAC)

At first, only white males owing sufficient property were permitted to vote, but slowly over the years, others have been allowed to participate. These rights are fragile and can be taken away at the whim of state legislatures — as is being done by the widespread enactment of voting suppression schemes, such as voter identification laws.

The USVRA would eliminate the Electoral College and implement a national popular vote for the offices of president and vice president. It also would establish a uniform presidential primary, limit the length of campaigns, require universal voter registration, and outlaw voter suppression. Finally, it would declare that corporations do not have constitutional rights and that campaign contributions are not the same as free speech.

If America is to continue as a representative democracy, it must transform its government into one that actually represents and cares for those who elect it — rather than the corporations and financial elites who are now paying for election campaigns and bribing the candidates.

The USVRA would provide a constitutional basis for the transformation of the United States government; however, the energy to compel its enactment must come from the incredible power of the pen literally held in the hands of the People.

William John Cox, a retired public interest lawyer, is the author of Transforming America: A Voters’ Bill of Rights.

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21 comments for “Troubles of Anti-Trump/Clinton Write-ins

  1. diogenes
    June 2, 2016 at 22:54

    The American so-called “Two” Party system is a fraudulent charade that eliminates all significant choices and present only candidates who are fundamentally acceptable to the 0.1% of Americans who constitute a hereditary ruling oligarchy and eliminates all significant discussion of real, fundamental issues from the non-debate The corrupt hireling media cooperates in this charade by “discussing” this non-debate and this phony choice strictly in terms of a horse race and avoids all genuine discussion of genuine issues of fundamental moment to the lives and survival of 99.9% of Americans. Facing this vile and shameful fraud, it really doesn’t matter who is elected. It’s a choice between this pile of dog-**** and that pile of dog-****. Get your nose close enough to see if you can tell a difference if you like. Confronting this, chosing to write in a “non-realistic” candidate or vote for a non-viable Third Party candidate is at least an expression of genuine dissent and genuine self-respect. Voting for either of these phony, wholly own parties and their phony fraudulent corrupt candidates is merely craven, slavish surrender to the sheer filth of the one-in-a-thousand who have corrupted America and usurped and subverted our once proud democratic government. Both parties, and both candidates can got to Hades for all I care.

  2. toto
    June 2, 2016 at 11:38

    A constitutional amendment could be stopped by states with as little as 3% of the U.S. population.
    There have been hundreds of unsuccessful proposed amendments to modify or abolish the Electoral College – more than any other subject of Constitutional reform.

    Instead, by changing state laws, without changing anything in the Constitution, using the built-in method that the Constitution provides for states to make changes, the National Popular Vote bill is 61% of the way to guaranteeing the presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in the country.

    Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in every presidential election. No more distorting and divisive red and blue state maps of pre-determined outcomes. There would no longer be a handful of ‘battleground’ states (where the two major political parties happen to have similar levels of support among voters) where voters and policies are more important than those of the voters in 38+ predictable states that have just been ‘spectators’ and ignored after the conventions.

    The bill would take effect when enacted by states with a majority of the electoral votes—270 of 538.
    All of the presidential electors from the enacting states will be supporters of the presidential candidate receiving the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC)—thereby guaranteeing that candidate with an Electoral College majority.

    The bill has passed 34 state legislative chambers in 23 rural, small, medium, large, red, blue, and purple states with 261 electoral votes. The bill has been enacted by 11 small, medium, and large jurisdictions with 165 electoral votes – 61% of the 270 necessary to go into effect.

    http://www.NationalPopularVote.com

  3. Bill Bodden
    June 1, 2016 at 17:41

    There is much to be said in favor of changes to the system proposed above and elsewhere, but the primary obstacle is that nothing will improve in American politics until a majority of the American people get out of the moral cesspool in which they have wallowed for most of the nation’s history. There have been many admirable leaders who have shown the way but rarely ever enough people to follow.

  4. Erik
    June 1, 2016 at 13:14

    The principles of this article are excellent. The election-time referendum appears to be a good idea, although we need to define who writes the questions, or they will be designing the answers they prefer.

    But the linked “USVRA” voting rights amendment needs to be rewritten: it combines half a dozen ideas, jumps around in subject, etc. That doesn’t matter until time to write the actual amendments, but it suggests careless planning.

    There is also well-intentioned misunderstanding of corporations. Certainly they should not have human rights or be allowed to influence mass media or elections, and their officers should be liable for actual crimes, and business needs much more regulation than it now has. But corporations etc. are necessary to have large efficient businesses because no one will dare be an officer if personally liable for huge corporate amounts.

    The origin of the legal confusion of corporations and persons is that they were considered legal “persons” only to abbreviate the law, so that we did not have to have separate laws in all areas for corporations. No one anticipated that future corrupt judges would try to give corporations voting rights. Those judges would have been removed for lack of “good behavior” if the politicians were not owned by the same economic concentrations.

    So the problem is to get money out of government and mass media, by constitutional amendments to restrict funding of elections and mass media to limited registered individual contributions. Then a separate VRA can deal with that issue alone.

  5. Joe Tedesky
    June 1, 2016 at 12:47

    I agree with this posts previous commenters before me on every level. This article by Mr Cox should be a good conversation starter. People think I’m joking when I say, we should have a voting system like ‘American Idol’ or ‘Dancing with the Stars’, but I’m not joking. I would even go further, by suggesting we do away with political party affiliation in regard to our Presidential Elections. Smarter people than me, I’m sure, could work out the details. Maybe you could punch in you Social Security Number, and have a paper trail using your phone bill. Quit with the two year media frenzy presidential candidate reality show, and ban commercials. Have debates without the booing hand clapping audiences, and actually make coherent responses the new thing. Last, but not least, reduce or do away with the corporate monied influences that has truly become the cancer of this nations public discourse. We can do better.

    • Joe L.
      June 1, 2016 at 18:01

      Joe Tedesky… I believe that I read before that the Carter Foundation listed Venezuela as having one of the best, if not the best, overall voting system in the world. I believe that they vote on computer screens but it also prints a paper ballot of their vote or something like, someone can correct me if I am wrong. It might be something for the US to emulate, maybe even Canada could take a page from Venezuela, especially if it is the best. I also hope in the future that internet debates will become more widespread which would not require a candidate to travel anywhere thus reducing the cost of the campaign and largely taking money out of politics. I would love to see more of our leaders look more like us who come from the 99% and thus represent our interests, the interests of the majority. Definitely the US campaign is FAR too long which requires way too much money. Imagine if there could be a Skype internet debate, unedited, where the debaters simply Skyped from their town hall or something like that or even their home. I think that we have the tools to take large chunks of money out of politics but special interests want exorbitant amounts of money to drive campaigns so that it weeds out competition.

  6. elmerfudzie
    June 1, 2016 at 12:14

    Not to get too far off the subject but changing election methods or options cannot work alone. An overshadowing need exists; to expand direct authority by our citizens, preserving or rejecting a corporate entity. Business enterprises cannot continue to have a separate personality from their owner(s) nor can they hide irresponsible actions such as environmental pollution, undesirable, or even harmful consequences of their finished products. Examples; Autism and vaccines, antibiotic abuses in livestock (AMR issues) , heart medications (withdrawn from the market) like Vioxx, cancer rate increases from herbicides (Roundup), Three Mile Island (downwind victims) and many, many other examples. Corporations cannot be shielded by a limited liability architecture built into our Justice system. This shielding causes a statutory rigidity in case or common law(s). Nor can these legal entities continue to share in the benefits of person-hood. Corporate owners must be held accountable to local community review boards with annual re-certifications that maintain their future existence. This method can assume the shape of a referendum (California style), where a “one man one vote” policy prevails, reflecting both the sovereign interests of the nearby community where-ever that corporate physical location exists and beyond (finished product distribution). Finally, our culture must pry itself from the accepted notion that in order to benefit from scientific research or “advances” humans must submit to being reduced to Guinea pigs.

    • Erik
      June 1, 2016 at 12:53

      Corporations should be regulated, and abuse by their officers punished, and they must not be allowed to influence elections or mass media. But business organizations cannot make officers personally liable for the group’s debts, or no one will dare run a large business.

      Regulation of business in the public interest, and constitutional amendments to restrict funding of elections and mass media to limited registered individual contributions, should do the job.

      • elmerfudzie
        June 5, 2016 at 20:47

        Erik, I’m a human being-NOT a Guinea Pig!-no matter how you “cut the mustard!” Not to over-emphasize the personal responsibility comment I made here but there are legal precedences.regarding strict liability for (CEO’s) and these decisions should be re-examined, in an effort to criminally prosecute!. Pull the passports, bank accounts and citizenship of corporate gangster rascals-no excuses!

    • Rikhard Ravindra Tanskanen
      June 1, 2016 at 18:32

      You’re a fucking idiot if you think autism is caused by vaccines. I have Asberger’s syndrome. That is just pseudoscience that has been debunked.

      • Joe B
        June 1, 2016 at 18:48

        Moderation, sir, will make us all happier.

  7. Realist
    June 1, 2016 at 12:09

    The root of so many of our problems are the states. The small population states outnumber the large ones and have undue influence in the legislature, especially the Senate, and certainly in the Electoral College. The American system is stacked in favor of small rural jurisdictions that are largely controlled by rubes who do not understand and are antithetical to the needs and concerns of our major urban centers. Requiring so few votes to control the legislatures and executives of these small states plus their federal representatives sent to Washington allows extremists to quickly take over and dominate American politics. We will never be a united nation as long as we are a collection of sovereign states. The oft times extreme minority controlling the small states will continue to dominate the discussion and the decisions. Better we had provinces rather than states and a parliament with a prime minister rather than the congress and president. But, I suppose it’s far to late to change any of that, so we will continue to muddle along as a nation that only addresses the needs of the very rich who play the game by exerting control over the many small states easily won over with campaign cash and swayed by the media demagogues they employ as propagandists.

    • toto
      June 2, 2016 at 11:34

      Support for a national popular vote is strong in every smallest state surveyed in recent polls among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group

      Among the 13 lowest population states, the National Popular Vote bill has passed in 9 state legislative chambers, and been enacted by 4 jurisdictions.

    • toto
      June 2, 2016 at 11:39

      Support for a national popular vote is strong in every smallest state surveyed in recent polls among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group

      Among the 13 lowest population states, the National Popular Vote bill has passed in 9 state legislative chambers, and been enacted by 4 jurisdictions.

      NationalPopularVote.com

  8. Bill Bodden
    June 1, 2016 at 12:02

    Write-ins for president, including “None of the Above,” may not be counted, but the nation can still get the message that the two top candidates are not acceptable. If 100 million people cast votes but Hillary and The Donald only get 10 million each, the message should be clear that 80 million people don’t want either of them.

    • kmassey
      June 1, 2016 at 17:50

      It surely would give a lesson to the like of the DNC, & the RNC, when you see a primary season as this one, you better stay neutral & let the people select their candidate… AS IT SHOULD BE!

  9. June 1, 2016 at 10:50

    It is becoming more and more obvious that upper-class snobs are bringing down national governments world-wide and that the US is no exception.

    A new information-age method of focusing distributed human intelligence on problems too large for any known organizational structure will soon be discovered or billionaire tyrants will rule sinking nations until humanity fades from existence.

    Perhaps the people will write in their own candidates and devise an independent exit pole this November. This could be a first step toward forming a more perfect union that cares not who is elected in the old one.

    • Erik
      June 1, 2016 at 12:49

      Independent exit polls are sensible. But with elections and mass media controlled by economic concentrations, the will of the people is not in their own interest.

      I am proposing an internet College of Policy Analysis, to make expert reasoned debate of policy alternatives, for every region and functional area (sociology, economics, history, etc.), in which every viewpoint is protected and heard (minority views, “enemy” views, unpopular solutions) and actually represented in debate, producing summaries per topic in which variant views are commented. If a policy analysis college is finally made a branch of government with (mutual) checks and balances upon the executive and legislature, it can bring the knowledge of society into public debate. And in the meanwhile, it could make mad assertions by extremists more readily identifiable.

      • June 2, 2016 at 07:26

        You don’t seem to understand how the game’s being played.
        The expert, the priest, academia is the problem.

        American professors are the most cognitively corrupt, the most ridiculous, irresponsible scientists imaginable. Nothing but “9/11” scum.

        You needed an unlearning and complete new integrity to even be able to perceive what’s going on.
        You had to really get to the bottom of the basic principle of civilization first.

      • Erik
        June 2, 2016 at 07:49

        Yes, Tosco, all organizations can be corrupted. I do understand the problem with biased think tanks, hence the proposal. But if designed properly they can contain all viewpoints. Public universities are not organized for debating/analysis like the proposed College, but even they contain a great diversity of opinion, where not sponsored by businesses.

        Perhaps you have suggestions on provisions to prevent control by a single interest group? I would be glad to hear them.

      • June 2, 2016 at 09:22

        I don’t talk about infiltration, conspiracy, I’m talking about mentality, mindcuffs. How belief and intuition form a unity – the so-called heart. The feedback mechanism that decides what you become aware of… “There is only one law in universe.”

        The whole education system is rigged by those who invented it. Psychology, politology are false flag half-sciences, worthless and misleading. The business of social science consists of obscurantism: everything, everything is a lie! From the Constitution through to the national wealth.

        One cannot grasp the effective “9/11” integrity, the oligarchy is scientifically based on, with all this (religious) academic crap in one’s heart. That’s not possible, because blinders. And blinders are taboo. Privately, socially, publicly, intellectually. Why? “Power resides where men believe it resides…”

        There won’t be considerable progress without an understanding of cultural complicity, piety politics, the pietological issue. The biggest mistake one can make is to put trust in intellectuals even rudimentarily. This is what history teaches me more than anything else.

        Academics are fond of the One Percent, not the 99. Why McKenna stated, “Culture is not your friend.”

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