More than 36,000 Wisconsin voters cast write-in ballots for president this year, surpassing the number in every presidential election since write-ins were first recorded in 1976 — combined.
The 36,460 write-in votes dwarf previous elections, according to state election data. In 2012 there were 5,370. In 2008 there were 6,521, the previous record. Between 1976 and 2004 there were 15,328 write-ins total, according to the Wisconsin Blue Book.
The vast majority of the write-ins this year, about 26,000, were votes for candidates who didn't register with the state before the election and therefore won't be counted. A 2014 law requires potential write-in candidates to be registered for the votes to count. For example, votes for Mickey Mouse or Bernie Sanders were not counted.
Sen. Devin LeMahieu, R-Oostburg, chairman of the Senate Committee on Elections and Local Government, said the huge number "may have something to do with the unfavorability rating of both candidates at the top." Both Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton had historically bad favorable ratings in state and national polling.
Among registered write-in candidates this year, former CIA officer Evan McMullin received 9,998 votes, according to official county totals released by the Wisconsin Elections Commission. The totals do not account for any changes discovered as part of the ongoing recount.
At one point a poll showed McMullin gaining on Trump and Clinton in his home state of Utah. In Wisconsin he wasn't on the ballot as an official candidate, but his write-in campaign got a boost from Milwaukee area conservative talk radio host Charlie Sykes who said he would vote for him.
McMullin finished fifth in the state's presidential contest, ahead of three candidates whose names appeared on the ballot. His best showing was in southeast Wisconsin outside Milwaukee where he garnered between half and 1 percent of the total vote.
Waukesha County had the highest percentage of write-ins that won't count as a share of its total vote (1.8 percent). Dane County had the third highest percentage (1.4 percent) and the highest number in the state with 4,367.
The over all number of write-in votes this year is well more than the roughly 22,000 vote margin that secured Republican president-elect Donald Trump's victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton in the state.
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