Possible write-in campaign feasible in Seattle, not​ here

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Evan Smith
By Evan Smith

The Seattle Times said recently that Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, who has not filed to run for re-election, might change his mind and run a write-in campaign.

It's not a far-fetched idea.

Getting elected as a write-in candidate is feasible for three reasons.

The first reason is Washington's "registered write-in" rule. This allows a write-in candidate to have his or her votes counted even with minor misspellings.

If Murray would run a write-in campaign without registering, his supporters would have to be sure to write "Murray," not "Murrey" or "Murrie." Even "Ed Murray" and "Edward Murray" would be counted separately.

That's not true for registered write-in candidates.

For a registered write-in candidate, elections officials would look for voter intent rather than exact spelling.

Either way, elections officials look at write-in votes only if the total number of write-in votes is enough to make a difference in the election.

Potential registered write-in candidates must register with the King County elections office by July 8 and pay the same filing fee as candidates who filed for ballot position in May -- 1 percent of the annual salary for the position.

The second reason that a write-in campaign could work is the low number of votes needed to qualify for the general-election ballot.

With 21 candidates on the ballot, someone may become one of the two qualifiers for the November ballot with 16 or 17 percent of the primary vote.

Murray could then get a place on the November ballot and in the voter's pamphlet for a head-to-head battle with the other top candidate.

Such an effort would be much harder in Shoreline, where only three candidates are on the primary ballot for a city council position, and it might take more than a third of the primary vote to qualify.

The third reason that a write-in campaign could work is the usually low turnout in August elections. Primaries for Seattle offices sometimes draw as little as 30 percent of registered voters. That means that a Murray campaign could focus on a small core of committed supporters.

Would it be easier to wait for the general election? No; it would be much harder with only two names on the ballot and with a much larger turnout.

But why not do both? Why not run a write-in campaign in the primary with a plan to try another one in November if he loses in the primary. He can’t; that would violate Washington’s “anti-sore-loser law,” which prohibits a candidate who was eliminated in the primary from running in November.

Murray would have a big advantage in fundraising, having raised far more money than any other candidate.


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