EVERETT — When it came to choosing a president, some folks in November seemed to take an old W.C. Fields line to heart.
The late comedian once said: “I never voted for anybody. I always voted against.”
Statewide, 3.25 percent of voters wrote in another name for president rather than cast ballots for Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton or minor-party candidates, according to information released this week by the Washington secretary of state.
Write-ins accounted for 107,805 ballots across Washington.
In Snohomish County, a record-number of voters — 12,561 — opted to write in someone else at the top of the ticket. There were just 2,151 write-ins four years ago and 417 in 2004.
“This is my fifth presidential election,” said Garth Fell, the Snohomish County elections director. “Certainly there were more write-ins this time.”
In all, 3.54 percent of county voters chose the write-in route in November. In the previous five presidential elections, the write-in percentage ranged from .08 in 2000 when George Bush narrowly defeated Al Gore to .65 percent in 2012 when Barack Obama won a second term.
The upsurge in write-ins for president didn’t carry over into other federal or statewide races on Washington’s ballot. There were just .27 percent of write-ins in the U.S. Senate and governor’s races.
Toss in votes for third party candidates, such as Libertarian Gary Johnson and the Green Party’s Jill Stein, and more than one in every 10 voters statewide opted for someone besides Trump and Clinton in the presidential election.
Washington was hardly alone in what amounted to protest votes against both parties’ presidential nominees. In Vermont, the home state of Sen. Bernie Sanders, 7.15 percent of voters wrote in a candidate. Sanders picked up 5.67 percent of that state even though his name wasn’t on the ballot. Another 1.43 percent simply left the top of the presidential race blank.
In Snohomish County, more than 5,300 voters did the same.
Vermont is one of a handful of states where voters can write in anyone and the vote is counted. So besides a number of political figures, the likes of Dolly Parton, Hulk Hogan, Neil Young, Alice Cooper, the Dali Lama, Pope Francis and Willie Nelson received votes.
Several states have no write-in voting.
Washington had seven names on the presidential ballot and more than 60 other write-in candidates who completed the requirements to receive votes. Most simply ran as independent candidates, but some listed parties, such as the Tea Drinkers, the American Party of America and the Party of Moderate Progress Within the Bounds of the Law.
Individual write-in vote totals are only recorded if they would affect the outcome of an election, said Brian Zylstra, a spokesman for the Washington Secretary of State’s Office.
Pre-election opinion polls showed some level of disillusionment with both major party candidates, so the uptick in write-in votes was not surprising, Zylstra said.
Fell, the Snohomish County elections manager, doesn’t have a breakdown showing who the top vote-getters were among the county’s write-in ballots for president. Anecdotally, he did hear that incoming Vice President Mike Pence received a large number of the votes, likely from people who supported him, but not his running mate.
Fell said Democratic vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine also received quite a few write-in votes.
The Secretary of State’s Office doesn’t always keep records on write-ins for president. One of the reasons it collected write-ins this year was to determine if any minor parties received major party status. In the past, that was not necessary because the results fell well under the threshold set in state law.
To achieve major party status, a political party’s presidential candidates must receive at least 5 percent of the total votes cast at the last presidential election.
Including write-in votes, there were 3,317,019 total votes cast for president and vice president in the state.
Five percent of the total votes cast is 165,850. The Libertarian candidates received 160,879 votes or 4.85 percent of the total votes cast. The party was 4,971 votes short, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.
Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446, firstname.lastname@example.org.