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Fixing Write-In Candidate Loophole Moves Forward

November 29th, 2017 by Jake Stofan
A proposed constitutional amendment to fix a loophole, which prevents unaffiliated voters from voting in primary elections passed a Constitutional Revision Committee Wednesday morning.
In 1998 a constitutional amendment was passed, allowing all voters regardless of affiliation to vote in primaries, if no other candidates from the opposing party were on the ballot. Drafters didn’t take in into account write in candidates.
“A write-in candidate does not have to participate in any of the debate or public policy questions that anyone running for office has to do,” said Commissioner Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch.
The loophole allows the often insincere candidates to close off an election.
In 2016 an estimated three million voters were denied a vote due to write in candidates.
Thurlow-Lippisch says one such candidate cost her a run for County Commissioner.
“My write in candidate competition, they were a Republican. If they were a Republican then we should all be competing as Republicans, but just because you’re a write-in candidate you have this special ability to close the primary,” said Thurlow-Lippisch.
In 2016 ten house races and ten more in the state senate were closed by write in candidates. It’s a strategic move used by both parties.
Constitutional Revision Commissioner Sherry Plymale is proposing a constitutional amendment to close the loophole.
“The supervisors of elections told us that’s the single biggest complaint they get when that happen in their county. People are outraged that their vote has been pretty much discounted,” said Plymale.
It’s hoped closing the loophole will lead to higher voter turnout in primary elections and more moderate candidates who have to appeal to all voters, not just a select few.
Currently primary turn out only average a little more that 22% participation.” If approved by voters, the change would take place in the 2020 election.

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