Vermont was home to the nation's only organized "write-in Bernie" campaign, which for one week involved supporters canvassing door to door, to tell liberals that they could safely write in the senator's name. Sanders, who hunkered down in Vermont in August to finish his campaign memoir, was made aware of the write-in effort several times; once, a fan asked him on camera how he "honestly" felt about it.
"I think in Vermont, it's okay, because Hillary's going to win," said Sanders, in a video released by Green Party Radio. "But in states where it's close, I want her to win. So if you write me in here, that's okay — I'm just not going to win, you understand."
The write-in surge actually turned Sanders into 2016's best-performing third party candidate in Vermont. He won 5.67 percent of the vote; Gary Johnson, the Libertarian nominee who mostly improved on his 2012 numbers in every state, won just 3.14 percent of the vote. Jill Stein, the Green Party nominee who had not appeared on the 2012 ballot, won 2.11 percent of the vote.
None of those totals made an impact on the presidential race, but they cut into Clinton's winning margin. The Democratic nominee won Vermont by 27 points, down from the 36-point win that Vermont had delivered for Barack Obama in 2012 — the biggest vote decline for the Democrats in the Northeast. Vermont's town-by-town election map was rendered a little redder by the write-ins, too. For example, Sanders won 94 write-in votes in the town of Castleton, where Donald Trump's margin over Clinton was 13 votes.
But down the ballot, Sanders might have helped Vermont progressives hold on to their offices. Democrats enjoyed a 32-seat majority in the state's House of Representatives and a 10-seat majority in its state Senate. After the election, Democrats held their House numbers and rose to a 14-seat Senate majority. In both houses, the Republicans lost seats, and the Vermont Progressive Party either held or gained seats.
Sanders's personal campaigning for Democrats couldn't prevent the party's only loss in Vermont, as the governor's mansion fell to Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Scott. But having assured progressives that they could write him in without costing Clinton the state, Sanders was proven right.
Few states keep detailed records of write-in votes, and the total support for Sanders (or for independent Evan McMullin) may not be known until December. But according to Dave Reip's Atlas of Presidential Elections, which is frequently updated with new data, at least 751,112 votes were cast in 2016 for write-in candidates. That was up from the 284,920 write-in votes cast in 2012, and by far will set the all-time record for write-ins.