Worth Another Look: Write-In Campaigns

by Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC

Most candidates for public office in Pennsylvania secure their place on the ballot by following the traditional path. They circulate nomination petitions, collect the requisite signatures by statutorily required deadlines and run in the primary—and, if successful, then the general election.

However, there is an alternate and less frequently used way to run for office: the write-in campaign. Judging from last week’s primary election results, write-in campaigns are no longer reserved for phantom candidates like Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse. Whether it’s an anomaly or emerging trend, the recent success of several write-in campaigns make it worth taking more than a glancing look at this tactic.

By running as a write-in candidate in a primary election, the candidate can bypass traditional requirements to get his or her name on the ballot but must receive at least 300 votes to be named a candidate for the state’s House of Representatives and 500 votes to be named as a candidate for the state Senate.

A candidate can also run in the general election as a write-in and bypass not only the circulation and nomination requirements but the hassle of running in the primary election. Just like any candidate on the ballot, the write-in candidate will assume the office for which he is running as long as he received at least one vote more than the other candidates.

Though the write-in candidate is rarely successful, the write-in campaign seems to becoming more popular in Pennsylvania. In the March 2014 special election for the state senate seat vacated due to the retirement of Sen. Mike Waugh, Republican Scott Wagner became the first person in history to win a Senate seat by staging a successful write-in campaign.

The write-in option has also caused a few 2014 post-primary wrinkles. Incumbent Rep. Mike Fleck (R-Huntingdon) lost his bid for reelection in the Republican primary to write-in candidate Richard Irvin; however Fleck was able to stage a successful write-in campaign of his own to win the bid on the Democratic ticket.

Incumbent Rep. Justin Simmons (R-Lehigh/Northampton) did not have an opponent in his own Republican primary but will face Democratic challenger Michael Beyer in the fall. Beyer had filed to run in his primary the “traditional” way but was tossed off the ballot as the result of a challenge to his nomination papers. But for Beyer’s successful write-in campaign, Simmons would have sailed through his general election unopposed, locking up his seat for another term.

Finally, Lebanon County Republican Russ Diamond is facing a different kind of election due to a write-in effort. Diamond was the only person to successfully file petitions to run for the 102nd state house seat on either side. On paper, it looked like Diamond would be able to lock up this race without running much of a campaign. Although Diamond was able to defeat write-in candidate Wanda Bechtold in the Republican primary, Jake Long ran a successful Democratic write-in campaign and will challenge Diamond in the general election. So what was thought to be a race that would sail straight through turns out to be a competitive seat this fall.

Write-in votes are an anomaly, and they can take some time to tally. County officials must carefully review write-in votes and discern what might be illegible handwriting. The final count for all votes is due to the Department of State by June 11. Though unlikely, it’s possible that another write-in candidate will surface. Stay tuned. In the meantime, we can’t help but wonder how this year’s write-in success stories may have on future election cycles and the impact they may have on Pennsylvania’s political landscape.


DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC

Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.