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Write-in candidates on ballot could impact presidential election


Write-in candidates on ballot could impact presidential election

Watch: Can you write in Vin Diesel for president?

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton may be presidential nominees, but neither is particularly popular. In fact, both candidates are "more strongly disliked than any nominee at this point in the past 10 presidential cycles," according to FiveThirtyEight.

Their unpopularity has many voters looking for other options. Some are flocking to Green Party candidate Jill Stein, while others are pledging loyalty to the Libertarian, Gary Johnson. Former CIA officer Evan McMullin also mounted a bid for the presidency just last week.

Jill?Stein of Lexington, Mass. speaks during a news conference outside the Statehouse, Monday, Oct. 24, 2011, in Boston. Stein announced on Monday that she will seek the presidential nomination of the Green Party. Stein is proposing what she's calling a Green New Deal to end unemployment in America and jump start a recovery. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

The names of those alternative candidates, however, are not actually on the ballot in many states.

Ballots vs. write-ins

Stein, for example, has only garnered spots on 27 states' official ballots. Johnson is doing better, with his name on 39 states' ballots so far. McMullin has assured reporters that he's working to get on every states' ballot before the November election, but his path to actually achieving that remains unclear.

With that in mind, it seems safe to say we'll probably see a lot of write-in votes this year.

Is it worth it to cast a write-in ballot?

Say there are a lot of write-in votes... Will they really count? And would they actually have the potential to impact this election?

The short answer is yes -- but only if you're smart about who you write in, and where. Obviously, any vote that takes votes away from a major-party candidate can have a so-called "spoiler effect" on the election.

Write-in rules are complicated and vary by state, and you have to know them if want your write-in vote to count. 

In some states, write-in votes just aren't allowed.

First thing's first: If you live in Arkansas, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Dakota, South Carolina, or New Mexico, forget about writing in your choice for president. These states don't allow write-in candidates, at least when it comes to the White House. 

In most states, your write-in has to want  to be a candidate.

There are 33 states where you can write-in a candidate, but your vote still won't count unless the candidate has done some sort of registration with the state.

In other words, you can't write in Bernie Sanders in these states unless Bernie Sanders has filled out the necessary paperwork -- and paid the necessary fees, in some cases -- to be a write-in candidate. Technically, you can write Sanders' name in these states, but the vote will be thrown out.

'Declaration of intent'

Even some prominent figures don't seem to understand this one. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) recently said he'd write in Colin Powell for president because he can't bring himself to vote for Trump.

While that might make for a good sound bite, Kirk's write-in vote will be effectively null and void unless Powell files a formal "declaration of intent" with every county clerk and board of election commissioners in Illinois by mid-September.

Know your states

These are the 33 states where a write-in candidate needs to have done some work beforehand if they want write-in votes counted:

Washington, California, Alaska, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Texas, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, Minnesota, Missouri, Tennesse, Kentucky, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Maryland, Delaware, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Maine. 

Only eight states allow unrestricted write-in candidates

The good news is, if you live in Vermont, Oregon, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Iowa, Alabama, Pennsylvania, or Rhode Island, you can literally write in anybody's name on the presidential ballot, and it will count -- thereby effectively taking away a vote from a major party candidate, and potentially having a real impact on the outcome of the election. 

'Vote your conscience'

If you've got all that down, you should have all the information you need to go forth and -- as Sen. Ted Cruz says -- "vote your conscience" this November. 

Would you write in Vin Diesel for president?

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