The tumultuous presidential election of 1968 was the first in which any Baby Boomer was old enough to vote. Many saw, in that election, a system that did not coincide with their vision of a better and more peaceful planet. Therefore, many first-time boomer voters decided that their vote would not go to support the same political parties that mired the country in the social unrest and foreign wars of the day. They wanted to change the world, man! For them, and thousands of other voters from coast to coast, only a write-in candidate would do.
Write-in candidates were not new to the election process in 1968. Every four years, there is always a group of people dissatisfied with the candidates from the two major parties. So, people have been taking advantage of their right to write-ins since the 1800s. Rules for write-ins, however, differ greatly from state to state. In fact, five states — Hawaii, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina and South Dakota — have never allowed write-in candidates. Louisiana joined the five in 1975, favoring instead a system in which anyone can get on the regular ballot, regardless of their party affiliation. Through the years stipulations have changed as well. In some states, a candidate must declare him or herself a write-in candidate before the election and in most, pay a fee. These “official” write-in candidates will not be on the ballot, per se, but are on a list that is required to be posted at polling stations.
Of course, people have been writing in all sorts of names over the years, real and fictional. In states that require registering, any name written in that is not on the list is discarded and the vote not counted. If there are votes for names on the official list, they must be sorted by hand, which is why election workers have perennially complained about write-in candidates. In some elections, the write-ins have kept workers going late into the night. For individual voters, however, write-ins have been their own personal protest.
As such, people have chosen all sorts of write-in names. Some come up in every election, while others are tied to a particular era. “Mickey Mouse” has probably received the most write-in votes of any fictional non-candidate. Reports indicate the Disney character has received votes in every presidential election since Mickey appeared in Steamboat Willie in 1928. Election officials in Georgia fought this trend by attempting to remind voters that a candidate had to be real, and follow the Constitutional requirements for running for president. Consequently, since 1987, no one has been allowed to vote for Mickey Mouse in that state.
Other common write-in votes of the Boomer Era that were cast in appreciable numbers included:
Donald Duck: in some states he was as popular as Mickey Mouse
Bozo the Clown: many people figured if they were putting a clown in the White House, it might as well be Bozo
Johnny Carson: the late night talk show host got votes throughout the 1960s and ’70s
Frank Zappa: the Mother of Invention was inspiration for several early-to-mid-era boomer voters
Miss Piggy: the beloved Muppet character from Jim Henson received the vote of many late-age boomers in the 1970s
Zippy the Pinhead: Bill Griffith’s quintessential 1970s underground comic character turned syndicated comic character captured many boomers’ humor and satire, and their vote
State election boards list a host of votes for other “candidates,” including the names of sports stars, spouses and even, “Me.” In the 1960 election, “Bacon” received votes in Georgia, and “Seymour Butts” was making the rounds in the 1960s.
One of the more infamous write-in candidates of the Boomer Era was Pigasus Pig. Just before the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, the Youth International Party (YIPPIES) decided to name their own write-in candidate, and “he” would be a real pig — a 145 pound animal that was purchased from a farmer for the occasion. YIPPIES leaders Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin demanded that the government treat the pig’s candidacy the same as other candidates, and afford Pigasus White House briefings and Secret Service protection. Instead, at a rally in Grant Park to announce the candidacy, Pigasus Pig was confiscated by the Chicago police on the grounds that an old city ordinance against bringing livestock into the city had been violated. YIPPIES leaders were arrested on charges of disorderly conduct but were later released when they posted $25 bail.
Pigasus became the property of The Anti-Cruelty Society, according to the Chicago Tribune, and lived out his days on a farm along with Mrs. Pigasus and a piglet that the YIPPIES had also purchased for the theatrical candidacy. Despite the party’s failure to get Pigasus a declared candidate, his name became a write-in for some sympathetic boomers.
While voting for a write-in candidate may seem like a good idea at the time, ultimately, when it comes to a presidential election, the vote is wasted. There have been documented incidents of write-in candidates winning state office, and even Congressional seats, but the president is actually elected by the Electoral College. As such, it is highly unlikely a presidential write-in will ever win.
How about it, boomers? Did you cast your first vote for president — or subsequent votes — for a write-in candidate?