If you make a decision to run for office, there are two ways to be represented on the ballot. If you want your name printed on the ballot, you must gather signatures on a petition and turn them in to the filing office. The number of minimum signatures required and the deadline to submit to the filing office vary, depending on the race.
The second way to become a candidate is to be a "qualified write-in" however; there is still paperwork to complete with the filing office and a deadline to meet.
The only time a write-in candidates name counts is when the proper steps have been followed to become a "qualified write-in".
The challenge faced, is the tabulation machines do not read handwriting. They identify if there is a vote cast next to the write-in line. Therefore, once the races with printed candidates are tabulated, the ballot is designated for a manual hand count of the write-in votes.
This year we had over 3,000 ballots that had candidates written in, which equated to over 11,000 names to review. For this election, we had 17 "qualified write-in candidates". The total votes cast for all 17 combined was 908. The review took 15 people 9 hours, 135 man-hours, plus another team of 3 people 2.5 hours to audit for a total of 142.5 man hours to complete. In wages alone cost to the taxpayers was approximately $3,500.00.
We realize many people are trying to make a statement. They write in candidates that are not qualified or write "notes" on their ballot. The ballot is secret and is never matched to a specific voter. For those casting unofficial write-in votes and/or making comments, they go unheard.
We never want to discourage anyone from speaking their minds or giving their opinions, however, it needs to be prior to casting your ballot.