PLEASE do not write-in cartoon characters, ineligible names, or protest statements in the write in field in Massachsuetts
PLEASE do not write-in cartoon characters, ineligible names, or protest statements in the write in field in Massachusetts.

by Robert Gillis
Published in the Foxboro Reporter and Boston City Paper, 10/2016

November 8 is Election Day – and I’d like to talk write-in ballots, specifically for Massachusetts.

First, a disclaimer: I am not endorsing any candidate here; when a real name is mentioned it is NOT an endorsement or statement about that person – I am using familiar names for example purposes only. Who you vote for (or whether you vote at all) is up to YOU.

The genesis for this piece came when a co-worker mentioned he didn’t like any of the four candidates for president and was planning to write in a certain politician’s name in the write-in field. That got me wondering – how do write-ins work? What is counted and what’s not? What’s valid and what’s not?

Online sites report that Google Trends data of online searches for “write-in” surged over one week by more than 2,800 percent, hitting a record high since 2004. (

Write-Ins procedures for presidential elections vary from state to state ( I’m writing this as a public service to clarify write-in voting procedure for President of the United States SPECIFICALLY IN MASSACHUSETTS 2016.

I drew information from the Commonwealth’s Voter Information web site and “How to Run for Office as a Write-in or Sticker Candidate” at and National Association of Secretaries of State, “SUMMARY: STATE LAWS REGARDING PRESIDENTIAL BALLOT ACCESS FOR THE GENERAL ELECTION” at “Massachusetts: Write-In A write-in candidate for president must file the name of the candidate for president and the names of the candidates for presidential electors with the secretary of state no later than 60 days prior to the election. (Mass. Gen. Laws §§ 50-1, 53-1, 53-6, 53-8, 53-10, 54-78A)

I emailed the Communications Director, Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth and got the response, “There is one ticket that is running as a write-in, and filed a slate of electors with this office. That is Evan McMullen and Nathan Johnson. Such a write-in gets counted.


All other write-ins are handled as follows:

  • Any actual living person written in the write-in field for president (Mitt Romney, Bernie Sanders, Bob Gillis) — these are all filed under “All others.” They are NOT counted as a vote for the name you wrote in.
  • Anything else (deceased persons, fictitious characters like Mickey Mouse, statements of any kind, such as “None of the above”) are counted as a blank.


REMEMBER: A write-in ballot has to be separated, and thoroughly tallied. So, if you’re thinking your “cute” write-in or “protest statement” is a good idea, please take a moment and think of the civic-minded poll worker who will have to deal with such nonsense on a VERY busy day.

All that said, you DO have the option to leave any contested field BLANK. For example, let’s say you go to the polls and do not want to vote for any of the four candidates in the presidential race, nor the one registered write-in, but you would still like to vote for the other contests.

That’s great — Remember, there are also four important referendum questions to be voted upon on that day which will directly influence life here in Massachusetts, and there are other important contests as well. So vote for those!

My friends, citizen Bob here; I hope this information is helpful. PLEASE go vote on November 8, and take your voting seriously. Thanks for reading!

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