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History: Write-in candidates that have been elected

Many people think it is impossible for a write-in candidate to win an election. That assumption is unfounded, as the successful write-in campaigns of two candidates vying for seats in the U.S. Congress attest.

Most people have heard of Strom Thurmond, the late South Carolina Senator who served for nearly 48 years. Most people do not know, however, that Thurmond was the first write-in candidate elected to the U.S. Congress. Thurmond ran as a write-in candidate after the death of Senator Burnet R. Maybank in 1954 to protest the South Carolina Democratic Executive Committee’s nomination of State Senator Edgar Brown rather than by primary election. At the time, the Democratic Party was the only party in South Carolina, so if Thurmond had not stepped in, Brown would have easily won the election without a challenge. South Carolina Governor James Byrnes endorsed Thurmond, as did most of the state’s newspapers. He ran on the promise that he would resign in 1956 to meet all comers in a proper primary. Thurmond defeated Brown, earning 63 percent of the vote. He held true to his campaign promise and did contend in a primary in 1956. Wouldn’t it be nice if politicians kept their campaign promises today as Thurmond did back then?

Ohio Congressman Charlie Wilson ran a successful write-in campaign in 2006. Ohio law requires that Congressional candidates submit 50 valid signatures from constituents in their district in order to qualify for a place on the primary ballot. Unfortunately for Wilson, the board of elections could only verify 46 of his 93 signatures as legal residents of his district. Since he lacked verified signatures, his name would not appear on the ballot in the primary election. Undeterred, Wilson launched a massive write-in campaign and successfully defeated the two other candidates in the primary, garnering 66 percent of the vote. He went on to win the Congressional seat in the general election with 61 percent of the vote.

Since write-in candidates have successfully won elections to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, why shouldn’t write-in candidates set their sites on the top elected office in the country? Anything is possible. Join in making the vote in 2008 a significant one for write-in presidential candidates.