Alexandria: What’s in a Write-in Name?

Alexandria: What’s in a Write-in Name?

City’s Electoral Board to determine “intent of the vote.”

Despite being dead for 10 years now, Rosa Parks is virtually uncontested on the Democratic ticket for mayor of Alexandria. And yet, it could be a close election against write-in candidate Stephen Strasburg, pitcher for the Washington Nationals. At least this is how the ballots for the election officers are written for the upcoming election in November. It’s a nonsense scenario, but it highlights that the impending contest between Vice Mayor and Democratic candidate Allison Silberberg and the write-in campaign to re-elect Mayor William Euille has not gone unnoticed by the Alexandria Electoral Board.

The three-member Alexandria Electoral Board met on Oct. 6 to put the final touches together for the upcoming election in November, and while much of the discussion centered around policy and procedure, a few pieces could have a major impact on the future of the city.

Strasburg is used as the potential write-in candidate because, not unlike the current mayor, elections officials could encounter a variety of different spellings for his name. If asked at the polls though, elections officials will be unable to assist someone hoping to write in “Euille” with the name’s spelling. Officials will also be unable to answer questions about the identity of potential write-in candidates.

If they need help with the spelling, though, general registrar Anna Leider said that voters will be allowed to wear campaign stickers and apparel, including wristbands, as long as they do not actively solicit the vote of other citizens.

When reviewing the write-in votes, elections officials will determine the intent of the vote to the best of their ability even if the name itself is misspelled. However, given the amount of potential misspellings the board could encounter the night of the election, Leider said there would be no point establishing ahead of time which hypothetical spellings the board would accept. She noted, however, that in addition to writing in the candidate’s name, the voter also has to check the box next to the name as they would for any of the other candidates.

For the City Council elections, candidates will also not be identified by their party affiliation. As per Virginia Law, state level elections do show party identification, though a space exists between the groupings of candidates. Democratic candidates top the list, and before any controversy can be raised on the topic, Leider noted that this is the statewide result of a coin toss in Richmond.

Because of the number of candidates for City Council, the votes will be delivered by hand-carried ballots rather than relayed over telephone, meaning the results could take a little longer to process this year than in years past. Additionally, the results of the mayoral election may not be immediately clear, as the tally at the end of election night reveals the amount of write-in votes received but not the name or names written. Meaning, if it’s close, Alexandria could be kept in prolonged suspense over the identity of the new mayor. To weigh in on the city’s future in this election, voters must be registered by Oct. 13.