But there is the write-in vote. Consider the Hennepin County election results:

Margin by which Clinton won: 111,239

Total number of write-in votes cast in all Hennepin County
elections: 137,709

With the exception of the major party candidates in the presidential and senate race, no single candidate garnered more votes than the collective write-in vote. But the write-in vote is anything but a unified block. We wanted to get a closer look at exactly whose names were written. So we took a none-too-scientific sampling of Minneapolis precincts and tabulated the results of the vote.

It should first be noted that on the county level the race with the highest number of write-in votes (excluding unopposed seats) was State Senate District 58, with almost 2 percent of the voters picking a non-candidate over a candidate. The highest overall was the mayoral race in St. Bonifacius, where an unopposed Dave Orn faced a healthy 38 percent challenge from write-in candidates. The smallest number of write-in votes were cast in the Senate race--just six-tenths of a percentage point.

In our sample of Minneapolis precincts, 216 write-in votes were cast in the presidential race. They break down nicely into five categories: Political Figures (120), Average Citizens (55), Celebrities (17), Fictional Characters (14), and Other (10).

The following chart lists write-in candidates from category one (Political Figures) and their percentage of the total votes cast in that category:

Colin Powell: 20.8

Alan Keyes: 15

Pat Buchanan: 10.8

Ohio Democratic
Rep. James Traficant: 10

Jesse Jackson: 5.8

Lenora Fulani: 4.2

Former Colorado Gov. Dick Lamm: 5

Elizabeth Dole: 3.3

Louis Farrakhan: 2.5

Daniel Patrick Moynihan: 2.5

Bill Bradley, Lamar Alexander, Paul Tsongas, Lyndon LaRouche, and Dan Quayle: 1.7 each

The remaining 11.6 percent were one-vote candidates including Tony Bouza, Noam Chomsky, Gore Vidal, Jocelyn Elders, and Susan McDougal, among others. Jesus Christ swept the Celebrity category with seven votes (notable mentions included Ted Kaczynski, Camille Paglia, and Mumia Abu Jamal). No clear winner emerged in the Fictional Character category, and the more interesting "others" included Mother Nature, The Cosmic Creation, The Democratic Fascist Party, Sports Babe, and An Honest Man or Woman.

But where the electorate really likes to cut loose is on the unopposed judges "running" for election. Court of Appeals Justice Edward Toussaint, Jr. saw 6,779 voters turn to the blank line under his name on the ballot. And 5,064 voters opted to not vote for appellate judge Bruce D. Willis, despite his haphazard name recognition.

When it comes to the unopposed judges, votes in the "Other" and the "Fictional Characters" categories seem to best capture the spirit of the write-in vote. "Fire them all," one voter wrote. "Uncontested is stupid," said another. A third encouraged the election judge, presumably, to "throw the bums out." A fourth simply gasped, "No Dear God!!"

An exegesis on the Fictional Characters would begin and end with Mickey Mouse. In our sample (roughly 75 Minneapolis precincts) Mickey took a whopping 164 votes. Minnie, by contrast, received just three. A similar gender gap shows up in the Simpson family: Homer Simpson took 16 votes to Marge's one; Bart took 12, while his eminently more qualified sister, Lisa, took just two. Butt-head: two. Beavis: one. Donald Duck: 27. Daffy: nine. Superman, Batman, Spiderman, and Hulk all got votes (with Batman favored three to one). Fritz the Cat, Bill the Cat, Socks the Cat, and "Emma, my cat" all got votes. Hercules: two. Zena one. Hera and Zeus: one each. Jehova: one. Allah: 36. God: 61. Jesus: 90. Mother Theresa and Sister Mary Elephant: one each.

The Dark Side got its votes, too. Lucifer and Satan both get votes. Darth Vader, the Ayatollah Khomeini, Charles Manson. Adolf Hitler got 13 votes. Chronic halitosis got a vote. Demi Moore got a surprising 12 votes and Kirby Puckett triumphs with a sweeping 41. One voter wrote in a color against each unopposed judge: Red, White, Blue, Grey, Purple, Black, Orange, Mauve. Another imagined a campaign race between the aging legal aristocracy and favorite cheeses: Edam, Gouda, Muenster, Swiss, Provolone, Pepper Jack, Soy, Goat. Imagine a large round of Muenster perched in a judge's chair draped in a black silk robe and you'll begin to catch the write-in fever, too. You'll realize, as one write-in voter put it, that "voting is fun!"

--Joseph Hart


We haven't even begun to scratch the surface of the brand new 1996 Statistical Abstract of the U.S., 116th Edition compiled by the U.S. Department of Commerce. (Did you know, for instance, that white Americans between ages 35 and 44 are 14 times more likely to commit suicide than African-Americans of the same age?) We begin this week with chart No. 210. "INJURIES ASSOCIATED WITH CONSUMER PRODUCTS: 1992 AND 1993." ("Estimates calculated from a representative sample of hospitals with emergency treatment departments in the United States. Data are estimates of the number of emergency room treated cases nationwide associated with various products.")

PRODUCT 1992 1993 +/-

Noncaustic cleaning equip. 26,654 27,184 +530

Power home tools, except saws 31,742 30,200 -1,542

Power home workshop saws 97,606 89,177 -8,429

Workshop manual tools 125,780 122,221 -3,559

Cans, other containers 239,521 238,081 -1,440

Glass bottles, jars 63,170 63,342 +172

Paper, cardboard, plastic products 47,495 46,358 -1,137

Bathtub, shower structures 166,327 161,673 -4,654

Beds, mattresses, pillows 400,732 395,268 -5,464

Electric fixtures, lamps, equipment 54,097 58,213 +4116

Tables 345,271 329,573 -15,698

Cabinets or door hardware 24,876 25,908 +1,032

Counters, counter tops 36,888 36,896 +8

Fences 123,014 126,714 +3,700

Refrigerators, freezers 35,895 33,895 -2,000

Fans 17,050 20,661 +3,611

Pet supplies, equipment 26,547 NA

Clothing 142,457 148,136 +5,679

Grooming devices 31,991 32,918 +927

Jewelry 55,142 55,677 +535

Paper money, coins 30,274 28,592 -1,682

Pencils, pens, other desk supplies 49,226 46,376 -2,850

Skateboards 44,068 27,718 -16,350

Toboggans, sleds, snow disks, etc. 43,273 59,698 +16,425

Trampolines 43,665 46,215 +2,550

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