Elections

Batman for judge: strange write-in votes in Sedgwick County

Voters fill out paper ballots at First Mennonite Brethren Church early on Nov. 8. Sedgwick County voters cast their ballots in favor of 42,544 write-in entries in the recent election.
Voters fill out paper ballots at First Mennonite Brethren Church early on Nov. 8. Sedgwick County voters cast their ballots in favor of 42,544 write-in entries in the recent election. The Wichita Eagle

If the Dark Knight ever wanted to leave Gotham City and fight crime in Wichita, six voters think he could start as an 18th Judicial District judge in Division 1.

Sedgwick County voters cast their ballots in favor of 42,544 write-in entries in this month’s election.

Some were serious. Others weren’t.

“It’s significantly more than we ever processed before,” said Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman. “We still tabulate all of those, and we do that by hand.”

There were 4,562 write-in entries for president alone. That more than quadrupled the total seen in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections.

4,562 write-ins for president in Sedgwick County (2016)

1,076 write-ins for president in Sedgwick County (2012)

1,014write-ins for president in Sedgwick County (2008)

Lehman said election staff noticed the high number of write-in entries in early voting. Machines were taking longer to shut down after each day.

“It was taking so long for each of those machines to consolidate all of those,” she said. “It caught our attention right away.”

After officials completed canvassing earlier this week, Sedgwick County posted almost 1,300 pages of write-in entries on its website. Here are some interesting or strange entries from that list:

President: Sedgwick County voters had four choices for president on their ballot: Republican Donald Trump, Democrat Hillary Clinton, Libertarian Gary Johnson or Green Party candidate Jill Stein.

But 4,562 voters wanted someone else in the White House.

“A decent candidate,” one voter wrote.

Some used their write-in entry for candidates that Clinton and Trump vanquished in the primaries.

More than 750 people wrote in Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s main challenger in the Democratic primary. Sanders also won the Kansas Democratic Caucus.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who won the Kansas Republican Caucus, got more than 140 votes. Other Republicans – Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Ben Carson, John Kasich and Marco Rubio – also received votes.

Evan McMullin was the most popular of the write-in candidates who were officially registered as such in Kansas, though voters had trouble spelling his last name.

Some voters chose fictional candidates like Han Solo and Elmer Fudd. Some picked celebrities like Garth Brooks and Morgan Freeman. Some voted for Wichitans like Greg Marshall or Charles Koch. Thirteen people wrote “God.”

Others went more apocalyptic, casting ballots for Giant Meteor, Sweet Meteor of Death and Vermin Supreme & Godzilla.

“God help us,” wrote one voter.

18th District Court: More than 850 pages of the report contain write-in entries for positions on the 18th Judicial District Court in Sedgwick County. All races were uncontested, featuring a Republican who was the eventual winner.

“The write-in numbers tend to go up when there’s only one party represented on the ballot,” Lehman said. “You tend to see the other party write in other people’s names. … Some of that we anticipated.”

Buddha, Big Bird, Bigfoot, Mickey Mouse, Semore Butts and Andrew Jackson received votes in the Division 1 race for the 18th Judicial District Court. Batman received six votes, and Bart Simpson received two votes.

More than 2,100 write-in votes were cast in that Division 1 race. The number of write-ins gradually decreased through the rest of the races.

“It’s kind of interesting to watch it go down as you scroll down the ballot,” Lehman said.

County clerk: Republican Kelly Arnold ran uncontested. But that didn’t stop Nicolas Cage or Clifford from getting a vote.

County commissioner: There were 66 write-in entries in the tight District 2 race between Michael O’Donnell and Tim Norton, which O’Donnell won. Thirty-seven voters in District 3 cast their ballots for Commissioner Karl Peterjohn, who had been defeated in the primary by the eventual winner, David Dennis.

County sheriff: Someone voted for Adolf Hitler in this race. Sheriff Jeff Easter was easily re-elected.

County treasurer: Saint Teresa, Scrooge McDuck and Anakin Skywalker were among the more unusual choices. Linda Kizzire won in an uncontested race.

District attorney: Chuck E. Cheese, Bozo the Clown and Johnny Cash all got votes in the uncontested re-election of Marc Bennett. Twenty-four voters wrote in former district attorney Nola Foulston.

Register of deeds: The most common write-in alternate to unopposed incumbent Tonya Buckingham was “Blank.” That’s when a voter hits the write-in circle but doesn’t actually write anything in the space provided.

Voters also cast votes for Leia Skywalker, Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer, the deceased gorilla Harambe, “my momma” and “my cat.” Seven voters simply wrote “me.” Fictitious candidate “Deez Nuts” got two votes.

Statehouse races: There appeared to be fewer write-in entries for famous or fictional characters in various local races for the state Legislature. Still, economist Milton Friedman, Clint Eastwood, Chuck Norris, Beyonce and Santa Claus all received votes.

State Board of Education: Bugs Bunny, Captain Crunch and Kim Possible are some write-in candidates that received votes in the State Board of Education races. So did “cat in tree.” Incumbents Kathy Busch and Jim McNiece ran unopposed.

U.S. senator: Ten people wrote in former radio host Joseph Ashby, who is considering running for Congress to replace Rep. Mike Pompeo if he is confirmed as CIA director.

Outgoing Rep. Tim Huelskamp received seven votes. Cheese pizza, Superman, Kanye West, Abraham Lincoln, Bob Saget and Tim Tebow each received one vote.

Sen. Jerry Moran comfortably won his re-election bid over Democrat Patrick Wiesner and Libertarian Robert Garrard.

And cheese pizza.

Daniel Salazar: 316-269-6791, @imdanielsalazar

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