The pool of candidates for the Camp Verde mayoral race expanded by one this past week with the addition of Alex Goetting as a write-in candidate.
All of which begs for a bit of an explanation of what a write-in candidate is, courtesy of the Yavapai County Elections Department.
For the candidates whose names will appear on the ballot for the August primary, they went through a process by which they obtained signatures from qualified voters. They are required to gather a certain percentage of signatures – which varies based on the specific office – and they file those petitions with a nomination paper with the county elections office, or a municipal clerk’s office. Candidates who gather the required number of signatures will have their name placed on the ballot, and the validity of those signatures is fair game for a legal challenge.
By comparison, a write-in candidate bypasses that process and forfeits the right to have their name appear on the ballot. A write-in candidate is only required to file a one-page nomination paper declaring they are an official write-in candidate.
When it comes to writing in a candidate’s name on a ballot, voters have been known to cast ballots for everyone from Mickey Mouse to Humpty Dumpty. But when votes are tallied, only the votes for candidates who file an official write-in nomination paper will be counted.
Obviously, without having their name on the ballot, write-in candidates are at an obvious disadvantage. It is not, however, without precedent that write-in candidates can and do get elected. The conventional wisdom is that the lower the voter turnout, the greater the chance for a write-in candidate to get elected.
Most recently in the Verde Valley, Jerome’s Jay Kinsella had a successful candidacy as a write-in candidate in 2016. He had several things going for him that do not always hold true with write-in candidates. First, there is a shallow pool of voters in Jerome; it’s not unusual to get elected with between 75 and 100 votes. Second, Kinsella is as well known and respected as anyone in Jerome and previously enjoyed a long tenure as the town’s mayor. In the final count, Kinsella received 105 write-in votes, while the top vote-getter among candidates whose names actually appeared on the ballot received 110 votes.
The Kinsella example is certainly the exception and not the rule, though.
Voters typically go with candidates who do the legwork and go through the process to officially and legally have their names placed on the ballot. It shows conviction, dedication and respect for the process to officially become a candidate. With write-in candidates, one has to question why they were not willing to do the work and go through the process to have their name placed on the ballot.
In the end, though, it’s voters who decide the legitimacy of any candidate, including write-ins. As we have seen from the example in Jerome, anything can happen in an election. It’s a difficult task to get elected as a write-in candidate, but it’s certainly not impossible.