Will my write-in vote for president count?

SALEM, Ore. -- Oregon and Washington voters disillusioned with the two major party choices for president want to know: Will my write-in vote count? Google searches for "write in" surged in October.

Some people who supported Sen. Bernie Sanders during the primary season may still find themselves unable to support Hillary Clinton for president. They may be choosing to write-in Sanders' name. 

Conservatives who can't bring themselves to vote for Republican nominee Donald Trump may be leaning toward writing in third party conservative candidate Evan McMullin. McMullin is on the ballot in 11 states but not Oregon or Washington. 

If you choose to write in a name for president on the ballot in either state, your vote is valid. But each individual write-in will only be counted if it could sway the election.

Officials with the Secretary of State's Offices in Oregon and Washington say all the write-in votes -- regardless of whose name it is -- are put into one giant pool. Then, if the total number of write-ins exceeds the total number of votes for the highest vote-getter who qualified for the ballot, the counties will go back and count each write-in separately.

For example: Let's say Donald Trump gets the most votes among the four candidates who qualified for the Oregon ballot. If the total number of write-ins exceeds the total number of votes for Trump, then election workers will sift through the ballots to see if any single write-in candidate had more votes than Trump.

So your write-in vote does count, but the chances of it changing the outcome are slim. And we may never know how many people voted for Sanders, or McMullin, or any other write-in because they won't be individually counted unless it can change the outcome of the election.

Related: Election FAQs

Interactive: States that allow write-in votes

 
The McMullin surprise

You may be unfamiliar with Evan McMullin, but he's garnered enough attention that even Trump started attacking him over the weekend. Multiple polls indicate he could pull off the shocker of this election and steal Utah's six electoral votes from Trump.

McMullin has local ties, having graduated from Auburn High School. He then attended BYU in Utah, where he now resides. McMullin is a former CIA undercover operative and House Republican chief policy director.

McMullin was flying under the radar of third party candidates behind Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party nominee Jill Stein. But when the 2005 video surfaced of Trump making lewd comments about women, some conservatives and Republicans sought an alternative and found McMullin.

Looking at election forecasts from FiveThirtyEight.com, Trump was given a 97.4% chance to win Utah on Oct. 7 -- the day the video went public. McMullin wasn't a blip on the radar. Six days later, McMullin made his first appearance in the FiveThirtyEight forecast model with a 3.1% chance to win Utah. Trump fell to 85.2%.

As of Monday morning, Trump was down to 74.6% chance to win Utah while McMullin was up to 19.1%. Clinton was at 6.3%.

A handful of polls shows McMullin tied with or leading Trump in the Beehive State.


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