Aside from Hank, retiring Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) got a handful of nods in Springfield. Donald Duck, Bugs Bunny, Bart Simpson, Scooby-Doo and Mr. Peanut also got votes, as did rocker Henry Rollins and pop diva Lady Gaga. “Me” was the choice of one voter, while another suggested “Communist.”
Robert Griffin III, who is not old enough to serve in the Senate, got two votes, and that was before his four-touchdown performance against the Eagles. Joe Theismann also got a Senate vote, while Sonny Jurgensen got one nod for president.
A handful of Virginians cast congressional ballots for politicians from other states (Gary Johnson, Chris Christie) or eras (Theodore Roosevelt). Jesus Christ got at least one vote for president, perhaps in response to a “Vote for Jesus!” petition that circulated online and supposedly got more than 2 million signatures.
Doug Lewis, executive director of the National Association of Election Officials, said it was common for states not to add up ballots for individual write-in candidates who get only a smattering of votes, given how much election workers already have on their plates.
“Why would you spend the time to do all of that unless there is the possibility that the write-in can affect the election?” Lewis asked.
Plenty of Virginians just stayed home on Election Day. So why bother going to a polling place and waiting in line if you’re just going to vote for a cartoon character? Or a cat?
“Historically, write-ins and protest campaigns, whether organized or disorganized, are a reflection of unhappiness or frustration with the two major-party candidates,” said Quentin Kidd, who chairs the department of government at Christopher Newport University in Virginia. “The most common protest vote is a non-vote. Behind that is a third-party candidate, and behind that is a few jokesters.”
Voters, of course, can express their displeasure in other ways. In Canada, for example, a group called the Edible Ballot Society encouraged voters to express their displeasure by eating their ballots, and a handful of Edmonton residents did during the 2000 election.
Even Hank’s fellow felines have gotten in on the act: The town of Talkeetna, Alaska, has been governed by Mayor Stubbs the Cat for the past 15 years. Really. And last year, the Hillbrook-Tall Oaks Civic Association in Annandale elected a dog as its president, apparently by accident.
Hank the Cat had no such luck. O’Leary considered bringing Hank to campaign outside a few polling places, “but since the weather was kind of cool, he actually just stayed home and slept all day.”
With Election Day over, O’Leary said Hank is eyeing the 2013 Virginia governor’s race, which he considers “wide open,” and there have been rumblings about the 2016 presidential contest. Hank has also earned a little election bonus: extra food in his dish.