Election 2016

Bernie Sanders Got Nearly 6 Percent of the Vote in Vermont, Even Though He Wasn't Running

And other strange tales of the 2016 results


How much dissatisfaction was there with the major parties' presidential candidates this year? Enough that we're likely to hit a popular-vote milestone not seen since 1980 and an electoral-vote milestone not seen since the 19th century. Enough that in one state, someone who wasn't even on the ballot collected nearly 6 percent of the vote:

James Gill/ThisIsCommonSense.com

Bernie Sanders finished third in Vermont, with 5.68 percent, even though he wasn't running. All sorts of non-candidates picked up write-in votes in Vermont, including seven ballots for Willie Nelson, one for Louis CK, one for Richard Nixon, and one for "R. Paul." (Rand, Ron, and Ru can fight it out for that one.) Either two or three ballots were cast for God, depending on whether you include the vote for Jesus; I'll let the theologians debate that one in the comments.

But the big write-in success was Vermont senator and former Hillary Clinton challenger Bernie Sanders, who got 18,218 votes—18,219 if you count the person who wrote in both Sanders and Joe Biden. That's 5.68 percent of the state's total, more than either Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party (3.14 percent) or Jill Stein of the Greens (2.11 percent). Sanders, you'll recall, ceased to be a candidate before the Democratic convention and spent much of the fall campaigning for Clinton.

Jill Stein has now surpassed 1 percent of the national total. When I last posted about the third-party results, Stein had .96 percent of the national total. Since then her tally has risen to 1.02 percent. If that holds, two third-party candidates will have surpassed 1 percent this year. (The other is Johnson, whose share now stands at 3.28 percent.)

That may not sound significant, but it is exceptionally rare. The last election where two different alternative tickets managed to do that well was way back in 1980, and the last one before that was in 1948. To find a third example you need to go all the way to 1916.

Department of Housing and Urban Development

Chances are high that one or more alternative candidate—or non-candidate—will show up in the Electoral College totals too. Before Election Day, a Democratic elector in Washington declared that he would not vote for Hillary Clinton even if she carried the state. Another elector in the same state was publicly mulling a similar protest. There was a lot of debate about whether they would actually stick with such a plan if it meant handing the election to Trump.

Well, that debate is now moot: Trump appears set to carry the Electoral College no matter what the Washington delegation does. And the Democratic slate did win Washington. So there's a strong chance that we'll see two Democratic electors defect to Sanders, Stein, or someone else. (There is also at least a small chance that one or more Trump electors will refuse to vote for the Republican nominee.)

It isn't unusual for a solitary elector to break with the pack this way. That's happened in six of the last 12 elections. But it's extremely unusual for more than one member of the same Electoral College to vote for a presidential candidate other than the one they're pledged to support. That hasn't happened since the 19th century.

Who finished last? Enough with the alternative candidates who did unusually well. Who did really, really poorly?

Strictly speaking, last place is a vast tie between a bunch of write-ins. But limiting ourselves to the candidates who actually appeared on the ballot, the person presently bringing up the rear is Frank Atwood of the Approval Voting Party, whose platform holds that you should be able to vote for as many different candidates as you like. According to the U.S. Election Atlas, Atwood currently has just 335 votes. Atwood himself might not be among them: Last October he told the Littleton Independent that he "will most likely be voting for Gary Johnson."

NEXT: Gigi Hadid, Melania Trump, the American Music Awards, and the Promise of a Humor-Free America

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  1. Either two or three ballots were cast for God, depending on whether you include the vote for Jesus; I’ll let the theologians debate that one in the comments.

    UNITARIANS! [shakes fist at unforgiving sky]

    1. No I am pretty sure they all voted for either Stein or Clinton

      1. I think he means anti-trinitarians more generally.

    2. The Holy Ghost really needs to do some more ad buys in the next cycle.

      1. The negative ads against Satan should be good.

        1. “Sure, I made Lucifer, but Satan chose for himself. Vote omniscience 2020!”

    3. No I am pretty sure they all voted for Clinton or Stein

      1. Fake SQUIRRELZ!!!!!1!

        1. Yeah I thought the squirrelz were objecting to my listing Stein first so I switched them around to see if they could post.. Course knowing them they all voted for Vermin Supreme

          1. It was the free ponies that won them over.

            1. I figured it was the fact that they were vermin too

            2. And the mandatory teeth brushing. Equally important.

              1. It puts the paste on its toothbrush or it gets the hose again.

    4. Bring back Chalcedon vs Monophysite split!

      It’s less idiotic than what we have now, and we might get a Justinian/Theodora power couple out of it.

      1. These euphemisms may require purchasing indulgences.

        1. We call them “carbon offsets” in these enlightened times, than you very much.

          1. I should hope so! The only person who considers my handle a euphemism is Dr. ZG, as Sod intended!

  2. include the vote for Jesus

    If dead people can vote, why can’t they run?

    1. Do resurrected people get to vote again immediately, or do they have to wait 18 years?

      1. Did they continue to vote while dead?

        1. Only while in Purgatory.

          1. Or Chicago.

            1. Difference without distinction, Saccharin Man.

              1. No, Purgatory would be better.

        2. Does the 18 years begin from when they die or from when they are resurrected? Interesting dilemma for the legal beagles.

      2. What about the “born again?”

        1. Muslims who convert have to die first.

  3. Fuck voters! The electors need to change their vote to Hillary! Because we totally will not mind the next time we win if the electors are harassed into changing their vote to the Republican!

    /the left

    1. She said that while her mom later called and tried to make things right, it was too late and she plans to hang out with her two cats in Boston on Thanksgiving.

      Who saw that coming?

      1. She will choke on the fourth slice of pecan pie and her cats will passively watch her asphyxiate.
        On saturday morning, after gorging themselves on the scant leftover pie crumbs, they will begin eating her corpse.

      2. I need to know whether she was a jazz player before I can properly interpret that sentence.

    2. Look, the Dems were Soviet spokesmen in the 1980s, and are Red China spokesmen today. So, Trump wins, calls the Taiwanese poobah and sez howdy. Immediately the Dems and the death-sentence-for-abortion Tea Party infiltrators raise a hue and cry for electors to change their vote to the Communist Party Line. Coincidence, right?

  4. Where is my hat tip?

    1. Be glad The Skvirrelz still let post, robc. You have as much right to a Hat Tip as you can enforce, otherwise.-)

  5. The weirdest story about minor parties/write-ins was the massive improvement that America’s oldest third party turned in: the Prohibition Party saw a greater than 1,000% increase in votes over 2012, driven mainly by a surge in Arkansas. They have historical been the last place finisher (for good reason), so I’m curious as to what changed this year.

    1. Anti-boozers who didnt like Trump.

      1. Doesn’t Trump supposedly not drink?

        Shouldn’t the anti-fun nannies by all about that?

    2. Damn it. Why does my state have to be the one propping up the Prohibitionists. I blame it on all the dry counties.

      1. Ky still has a large number of dry counties, but it is shrinking by a few every election cycle.

        1. Ky still has a large number of dry counties

          And the people in those counties aren’t even jelly.

      2. For perspective, it was just 0.42% of Arkansans, but that still amounted to about 80% of the Prohibition vote nationwide (~5,000 votes, a curious explosion of enthusiasm following decades of

        1. Well, don’t leave us hanging.

          1. Decades of squirrels eating less than signs if you don’t format properly. 🙂

            Should’ve read “decades of less than 1,000 votes).”

    3. They are the antiabortion spoiler votes the GO-Pee fear. They do not believe the Don supports the death sentence for abortion and are pissed that Robert Dear, their fave, was busted for saving babies.

  6. Either two or three ballots were cast for God, depending on whether you include the vote for Jesus; I’ll let the theologians debate that one in the comments.

    I’d say 3 but we can’t be sure without knowing what the Jesus-voter believes.

    1. 3 per vote, heathen. Every vote for God includes a vote the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

      1. Some pincer tongs and molten lead will help you see it my way, heretic.

  7. Nice to see the US Election Atlas colors dem states RED, as it should be.

  8. include the vote for Jesus

    I thought he was deported.

    1. Damnit, that’s why I can’t get anyone to mow my lawn

      1. Depends on if you mean, “Landscaping,” v. “Manscaping,” Ras; if you are referring to the latter, that explains the reluctance, regardless of immigration status.-)

    2. He is gonna get deported, but only if he has a criminal record. There is that table flipping charge…..and tax evasion, too.

  9. More importantly:

    Clinton received 1.72 million more votes than did Trump. Trump received a smaller percentage of the votes than did the previous GOP presidential loser Mitt Romney in 2012.

    In the 13 swing states ? Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin ? Clinton was down by 1.9%, while in the remaining 47 states Clinton was up by 3% (up 1.3% nationally).

    Trump will get 306 electoral votes, giving him 57% of the electors, while the average electoral victory for the 16 elections since 1952 was 73%, with eight electoral wins greater than 70%, six greater than 80% and four greater than 90%. Barack Obama’s totals were 365 (68%) in 2008 and 332 (62%) in 2012. In that period, there were only four presidential elections which were won on a lower percentage than Trump’s, including both elections of G.W. Bush.

    1. Even more importantly: States are sovereign entities who created the federal government, not the other way around, and the EC represents them as such based on their representatives in the House, as intended. You know, that whole pesky federalism thingy.

      1. *House

        Congress. You get the gist.

    2. The nation is more consistently divided than previously, with fewer swings in the electorate. Of your sixteen elections, six have been decided without anyone winning a majority of the national popular vote, and of those four have been within the last seven elections. Elections without a winner of the majority of the popular vote unsurprisingly tend to produce fewer electoral college votes for the winner. And while Trump had a smaller portion of the vote than Romney (-0.6% points), the key was that Clinton performed even worse compared to Obama (-3.2% points) and was only able to appeal to a voting segment that was hyper-concentrated in small areas of the country (Trump won 85% of the counties to 15% for Clinton). And when considering vote totals, the change is even more stark, as Trump got +1M more voters over Romney, while Clinton got -2.3M fewer voters than Obama. But the real take-away from the election is that neither candidate was the clear people’s choice, as majorities voted against them both.

      1. ^This.

        Also, we have no idea what the popular vote would look like if it was based on a simple majority. If it was, most ‘swing-states’ would instantly stop swinging, as the presidential candidates would focus on the most heavily populated areas of the country and probably ignore the rest.

        I don’t live in a swing state and the candidate who lost my state’s EC votes knew that, and what little campaigning I saw was half-hearted at best.

        I’m not saying Trump would have won the popular vote if the election was structured differently. I personally didn’t and still wouldn’t have voted for him regardless, but the 1.72 mil voting deferential is meaningless when viewed in proper context.

    3. “Clinton received 1.72 million more votes than did Trump. ”
      And the latest numbers I could find showed that all of that came from LA county. No wonder the Senators from California are pushing for eliminating the EC. As Trigger Hippie writes below, the election would be very different if the national popular vote is the deciding factor.

  10. Obviously ,6% of Vermont voters thinks there are too many choices in deodorant, too much available food and toilet paper.
    Viva Chavismo

    1. Right, people who vote for a candidate vote for him for everything he has ever said. That’s why anyone that voted for Trump is racist, because Trump said some racist things once.

      1. Seems like most people who supported Bernie didn’t really agree with half of what he says.

  11. Johnson tied with Clinton in several counties in the Plains states and one in Texas. This is not so much because Johnson did extraordinarily well in those counties but because Clinton did so poorly. You almost get the feeling that in some counties the election officials gave Clinton a few votes just so the results would not look too suspicious. Other than McMullin in Utah, I have yet to find any county where any other minor party candidate beat or tied Trump or Clinton.

    1. Please share your dataset sources. I do county-by-county number-crunching and will share data. Find me at libertariantranslator.com or hankphillips.com

  12. Go FRANK!

    Approval Voting is awesome.

  13. Bravo on the Washington alt-text.

  14. Jesse,

    Thank you for mentioning the Approval Voting Party in your Hit and Run Blog, Reason eMagazine .

    The mechanics are summed up in our jingle: “Mark all the candidates ‘Yea.’ or ‘Nay.’; most ‘Yeas’ win at the end of the day.” Because voters can honestly express their opinions of all the candidates with Approval Voting, votes for alternative parties (like the LP) become more viable and visible. No more “wasted votes.”

    I’d like to point out that despite the huge disapproval scores of the established party candidates, the LP candidate still garnered less than 5% nationwide. The Approval Voting Party purpose is to motivate voters to investigate Approval Voting. Voters will discover that with Approval Voting, there is more honest voting ? when faced with choosing between two candidates whose positons they support, they can vote for both or, when faced with a terrible candidate vote for all but that terrible candidate.

    Alternative parties will earn more viability and visibility. Established parties will suffer fewer spoilers and less sabotage. Maybe the candidates will even be more civil as they focus on issues and avoid antagonizing potential cross-over voters. Imagine, incentives for honesty and civility!

    Thank you, Frank Atwood, 2016 Approval Voting Party Presidential Candidate, 720/260-1493; AVP: 720/439-6000.

  15. The Dems are still controlled by foreign communism, and their platform says to jail hippies for pot, take away their Second Amendment rights for life and nationalize property through civil asset forfeiture (just like the GO-Pee platform). The Republicans, controlled by nativist christianofascists pushing a Germanic National Socialist agenda offer all of the above plus forcing women to reproduce against their will to reproduce Lebensborn Jesusjugend as Crusades-fodder against the Islamic Saracen hordes.
    Voters chose two candidates that are against freedom, and ought to be made to lie in their bed as we watch and remind them of the chances they missed to cast law-changing spoiler votes–like Roger McBride!

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