It is understandable that some S.C. voters might be considering casting a write-in vote for president this year — whether for Nikki Haley, Bernie Sanders, Mickey Mouse or their mom.
Americans are uniquely unhappy with their presidential options. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have the highest unfavorable ratings of any major party nominees in recent history.
In South Carolina, voters can’t write in a candidate for president.
While the state provides a write-in option for every other office on the Nov. 8 ballot, S.C. law doesn’t allow for write-in votes for president and vice president.
In 1982, S.C. lawmakers approved a change to state election law to bar write-in votes for president, becoming one of only nine states to deny a write-in option, according to Ballotpedia.
Counting write-in votes for other offices is straightforward.
But election officials are faced with a challenge in the presidential race because write-in candidates don’t have a slate of electors that could vote for them in the Electoral College – which is what a citizen’s vote for president really is deciding.
“Electors have to file with the secretary of state, so you can actually vote for a slate” of electors, said Chris Whtimire, spokesman for the S.C. Election Commission. “I’ve seen some older ballots that have the electors listed on them. ... You have Richard Nixon, Spiro Agnew and then the names of the electors voting for them.”
The early 1980s debate over barring write-in votes for president centered on the difficulties of offering a write-in option as the state was adopting more high-tech voting machines, recalls Rick Whisonant, a political science professor at York Technical College.
“It was said to be too labor-intensive as you get into a more electronic age of voting methods,” Whisonant said.
Still, this year, the lack of a write-in option is sure to leave some voters dissatisfied, even with five other options for president besides Clinton and Trump on the ballot.
Gibbs Knotts, political science chair at the College of Charleston, says some local officeholders — like Gov. Haley, or U.S. Sens. Tim Scott or Lindsey Graham — may be missing out on a chance to have their constituents vote for them for president.
“Of all the years when you might get a write-in vote, it would certainly be this one,” Knotts said.
Your options for president
As they will appear on S.C. ballots:
Darrell Castle/Scott Bradley, Constitution Party. Socially conservative party that wants to return the country to its “biblical foundations.” Castle has promised to withdraw from NATO and the United Nations, and “end the Federal Reserve.”
Hillary Rodham Clinton/Timothy Michael Kaine, Democratic Party. The former first lady, senator and secretary of state is running to succeed her former boss, President Barack Obama, after his two terms in the White House.
Gary Johnson/Bill Weld, Libertarian Party. Two moderate former Republican governors left their party to represent this long-established third party which advocates a fiscally conservative, socially liberal platform.
Evan McMullin/Nathan Johnson, Independence Party. A former CIA officer and policy director for Republicans in the U.S. House, McMullin is running as an anti-Trump alternative for conservatives. Polls show him at more than 20 percent in his native Utah.
Peter Skewes/Michael Lacy, American Party. Clemson professor Skewes is the first presidential nominee of this S.C.-based centrist party, calling for term limits and campaign finance reform. This ticket is on the ballot only in South Carolina.
Jill Stein/Ajamu Baraka, Green Party. The Massachusetts physician is the nominee of this environmentally oriented party. Stein is running on a platform of a “Green New Deal,” racial justice, single-payer health care and living-wage jobs as a human right.
Donald J. Trump/Michael R. Pence, Republican Party. After an insurgent primary campaign, the New York businessman won the GOP nomination on his plan to limit immigration, tear up unfavorable trade deals and, otherwise, “Make America Great Again.”