Bernie Sanders supporters cheer for the presidential candidate during a rally in Seattle on March 20, 2016. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren.

Bernie Supporters: If We Write Him In, There’s Still a Chance

Washington is among ten states with no registration required for write-in candidates.

Yes, Bernie Sanders officially lost the Democratic nomination. Yes, he publicly conceded to Hillary Clinton, endorsed Hillary Clinton, and is actively campaigning to elect Hillary Clinton.

But for the people who’ve been behind him 100 percent — and are 100 percent against both Clinton and Trump — that doesn’t mean he doesn’t still have a shot at the White House. And Washington state could play a big role in that.

The Op Deny 270 campaign, which got rolling around late September or early October, is among half a dozen similar scrappy, grassroots groups (including Write Bernie In Strategically and Bernie or Bust) that have launched a national effort to snag just enough electoral votes for Bernie to cause an upset. So far, they’ve amassed a list of 10 states that will count unregistered write-in votes, including Washington, Oregon, and Vermont.

If Sanders can win just a handful of states through a write-in, supporters argue, it’s possible that neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump would get the electoral votes they need, and the country would be required to invoke the 12th Amendment and allow the House of Representatives to decide among the top three electoral college vote-getters. The Op Deny 270 folks believe that most Republican politicians detest both Clinton and Trump enough by now to opt, in that case, for Sanders.

“We know it’s a really long shot,” admits Krista Pearson, a Colorado Springs resident and avid Bernie supporter, not least for his plans to reform Wall Street and Citizens United. She canvassed for him before the primaries and now co-runs Op Deny 270. Still, “we have more people joining every day” from across the country, she says, including, of course, Washington, where Sanders took 73 percent of the vote in the Democratic caucuses, and which has a long history of supporting third-party candidates. Unlike much of the sentiment out there about Clinton and Trump, the most-hated major presidential candidates in decades, “People are excited about it.”

Lest Bernie supporters feel too terrified of a Trump presidency to take the risk, Pearson argues, Trump is now doing so badly in the polls — especially in the last few weeks — it’s looking more and more like Bernie write-ins would simply take votes from Clinton. Plus, she believes Republicans would take Bernie over Clinton, any day. “Paul Ryan and other Republicans have distanced themselves — they don’t wanna get blamed for putting Trump in there,” she says. “And they don’t like Hillary.” If elected, many have said they would try to impeach her. Meanwhile, “Bernie is not gonna do anything crazy or start a war. He’s stable. [Republicans] have all worked with him, they like him… Bernie would be the safe choice.”

Despite the fact that many are calling Donald Trump, at best, “spectacularly unfit for office,” Pearson believes that Clinton “is just as bad as Trump. She’s calculated evil. He’s like, stupid evil.” She points to what many Sanders supporters and others have called a rigged primary election and the leaked emails that suggest a Democratic Party mission to defeat Sanders. “We’re gonna be in trouble, whether it’s Trump or Clinton. We don’t want either. We want Bernie.”

And what of that minor detail that Bernie has already publicly conceded and endorsed Clinton? “He didn’t have a choice,” Pearson says. He’s done what “the Democratic Party has wanted him to do… we feel his obligation [to the Party] ends on election day.”

While there is not yet an official spokesperson for the Washington state Op Deny 270 campaign, Pearson says local supporters are active, and may have plans to do some last-ditch public demonstrations here — unfurling a huge banner across a freeway overpass at rush hour, say. Door-knocking and phone-banking might not do that much at this late date. (Though one Seattle Weekly staffer did observe a Bernie Write-In canvasser working the crowd at the Indigenous People’s Day celebration at Westlake Park). “We know we’re running out of time,” Pearson says, but wants as many voters as possible to get the message — to “at least know it’s an option.”

Sure, it’s unlikely, she says, but let’s face it: We’re in a two-party system. “We’re gonna end up with [Clinton or Trump] anyway. We might as well try.”

Editor’s note: Several readers have written to point out that Sanders did not file as an ‘official’ write-in candidate in Washington state. That is true, however it doesn’t really matter in Washington. According to the Secretary of State’s office (emphasis ours): “The only way he would be an “official” write-in candidate would be have personally filed with us by Oct. 21. He did not, of course. But our state treats all write-ins the same, counting all of the combined votes into one single pot and announcing how many were cast. The only time the counties split out the write-in votes by candidate is if the total exceeds the vote for the winning candidate. Presumably that wouldn’t happen in this case. Official designation sometimes is helpful for write-in candidates at the local level. Occasionally a write-in who didn’t file for office or run in the primary is able to win as a write-in for mayor or council or whatever. If the county splits the write-ins out by candidate, the official designation allows election officials to credit any form of the person’s name.”

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