So Let It Be Written In, So Let It Be Done


Last week, I counted up the vote totals for the third parties in this presidential election. Nothing much has changed in a week, although extra ballots have edged Ralph Nader past his 1996 performance and pushed Chuck Baldwin to the best Constitution Party showing ever. The biggest change, historically speaking, is the total of write-in votes. As of today we know that, in the states that allow write-in votes to be counted, 78,346 people wrote in names at the top of their ballots, the biggest official number in American history.

Does that mean there was a nationwide groundswell of support for Ron Paul? Sort of. We know what happened in New Hampshire, the state that's crunched the write-in numbers the fastest.

Hillary Clinton, the Democrat who finished first in New Hampshire's presidential primary last year, also took first among all the write-in candidates in last week's general election. She garnered 1,124 write-in votes. Clinton's husband, former president Bill Clinton, also had his supporters, claiming 13 write-in votes from around the state.

Libertarians also made a strong showing in write-in ballots. Libertarian icon and Texas Republican Rep. Paul snagged 1,092 write-in votes. Chuck Baldwin, the Constitution Party nominee, snagged 226 votes.

All year I argued that the Ron Paul rEVOLution had more dead-enders than the Hillary Clinton electorate. But it turns out that, in the one state where we have data, their numbers were pretty comparable.

UPDATE: A caveat about Ralph Nader: His better vote totals are largely a function of his making it on more state ballots than he did in 2004 and 1996. In swing states where he's always been on the ballot (and where he focused his attention), his numbers are cratering. Nader won 28,087 votes in Florida this year, down from 32,971 in 2004 and (famously) 97,488 in 2000. In Colorado, Nader won 12,542 votes, down marginally from 12,718 in 2004, way down from 91,434 in 2000, and down even from the 25,070 votes he won in his 1996 non-campaign (when he allowed his name to be placed on ballots but refused to stump on the trail). California is Nader's burial ground: he won 237,016 votes there in 1996, 418,707 votes in 2000, and missed the ballot in 2004. But this year he got back on and won only 95,609 votes, even though liberal voters had no doubts about Obama winning the state.

It's hard to escape the conclusion that Nader would have been better off skipping this race, as far as it concerns his reputation. (Beyond the paltry vote totals, all that'll make his obituary is him accusing Obama of "acting white" and being an "Uncle Tom.") That's also true for McKinney, but probably not true for Barr, Baldwin, and Paul.