On Write-In Votes in Alabama

There has been some press speculation concerning a write-in vote in Alabama Senate special election. Here’s what the Secretary of State’s page says on the subject:

When the candidate you would like to vote for is not listed on the ballot, you may vote for that person by writing his or her name in the blank “write-in” box on the ballot. Each contest on the ballot has a “write-in” box. You must also shade in the circle next to that “write-in” box to ensure your vote is tabulated properly.

In looking at the statute, I do not see anything that would preclude a Luther Strange write-in campaign.  However, I have my doubts about time (and motivation) for a write-in campaign (the next several weeks between now and the elections include Thanksgiving, the Auburn-Alabama game, and the SEC championship–and yes, I think those football games matter in terms of getting voters’ attention).  Strange is insufficiently popular, IMHO, to win a write-in outright, plus I think that support for Moore will remain strong (I still think he probably wins, but we will have to see what else comes out, I suppose).

As such, at the moment I think a write-in would split the GOP vote enough to allow Jones to win, so I think that GOP operatives are going to prefer risking an embarrassing Moore win than a devastating Jones win.

FILED UNDER: 2017 Election, US Politics, , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. JohnMcC says:

    Regarding a write-in campaign for a more establishment-friendly Republican, I have assumed that there is a solid political ‘rump’ of Moore voters and that drawing off non-Moore Repub votes to a 3rd candidate would split the likely anti-Moores making his victory with a plurality more likely. Didn’t something like that happen in Maine lately?

    I confess to knowing absolutely nothing about the history of statewide voting in AL so I am quite certain I’m correct, by the way.

  2. Mr. Prosser says:

    Does anyone think Gov. Ivey and the party can get away with delaying the upcoming vote to allow more time for a write in? Also, what if the WH talks Sessions into running for the seat he gave up? Trump gets rid of Sessions and appoints an AG to fire Mueller which also gets Sessions out of a possible investigation?

  3. gVOR08 says:

    @Mr. Prosser: I don’t know how they legally get Moore off the ballot and Sessions on. And if Moore’s on the ballot he’ll get votes. If Jones gets a plurality, but not a majority, anybody know what happens in AL? Plurality win? Two man runoff?

    Tangentially on topic – I see Kuerig pulled out of sponsoring Hannity after his absurd interview trying, and failing, to steer Moore to safe answers. Now, in protest, Moore backers are destroying their own coffee makers to “piss off liberals”. Conservatives are strange people.

    Think I’ll go downstairs, grab a pod, and make myself some liberal coffee.

  4. JKB says:

    @gVOR08: Now, in protest, Moore backers are destroying their own coffee makers to “piss off liberals”.

    Normally, such gestures would be futile, but Kuerig sells their bad coffee on the razor blade business. The machines are not a profit center, the eternal dependence upon the little pods is where they hope to make their money. Destroying the machine is a loss, but more to the company since now they won’t buy the pods.

    In any case, Kuerig has backtracked so much Hannity is appealing to viewers. We’ll see what happens with Volvos.

  5. JohnMcC says:

    @JohnMcC: The latest version of this Republican/’conservative’ playground business apparently calls for Sen Strange to resign, another special election to be called by the Governor and a write-in for Sessions. Which nicely finesses anything about the voice of the actual voters because, hey!, it’s important for the passage of a tax “reform” which itself only has the support of 1/4th of the U.S.

    And I answered my own question: Politico quotes an R-party official as saying that a write-in (not specifying Sessions but….) would split the Republican vote and leave Mr Jones the winner. I’d tho’t the numerical divisions colored by fanaticism would cut the steak differently.

  6. @JohnMcC: I think that a write-in campaign would likely produce a Jones win, but much is contingent on who the candidate would be and how the campaign was conducted.

    At the moment, I think a huge percentage of Moore voters see even GOP interference on this issue is Washington telling Alabama what to do, and they don’t like that.

    Ultimately, I think the election is going to be run with Jones and Moore as candidates and we will see where the chips fall. I think Moore can still win even with this story.