WatchSonoma Watch

Counting ballots is no funny business

Donnette Robles, left, Julie Lifto and Donna Warner prepare absentee ballots to be mailed out at the Registrar of Voters office in Santa Rosa on Wednesday, October 17, 2012. (Christopher Chung / PD)


Politicians come and go, but year after year, the name of one write-in candidate is scrawled onto more ballots than any other in Sonoma County.

Mickey Mouse, the 84-year-old Disney icon, consistently gets more write-in votes than any other unofficial candidate, Sonoma County elections officials say.

“Donald Duck is a close second,” said Gloria Colter, Sonoma County’s assistant registrar of voters.

With three weeks to go until Election Day, mail-in ballots are pouring into the county elections offices. As of Wednesday, early voters in Sonoma County have cast about 13,000 ballots by mail, Colter said.

But this year’s batch of votes for Mickey, Donald and other fake candidates will not be counted, Colter said.

Up until the 2008 presidential election, the machines that processed ballots at the Sonoma County elections office would completely stop operating whenever it encountered a write-in candidate. Election workers then had to check to see if the write-in name was a qualified candidate.

Today’s machines, however, automatically determine whether a write-in candidate is qualified to be on the ballot, Colter said. The votes are not counted, she said.

While casting a vote for Mickey Mouse no longer throws a wrench in the system it’s still no laughing matter, she said.

“Mickey and Donald are not qualified write-ins for any contest,” she said. “In an election of this magnitude, make your vote count.”

When comedian Pat Paulsen was still alive and living in Sonoma County, he often gave Mickey a run for his money as the most popular unofficial write-in candidate.

Yes, more contemporary Disney characters such as Buzz Lightyear and Lightning McQueen may have greater appeal among younger audiences. And Spider-Man and Captain America may be claiming more floor space at the local Disney Store.

But for some reason, the hapless rodent and eternal optimist continues to be the most popular write-in candidate for president of the United States, elections officials say.

Write-in candidates like Mickey Mouse point to a generation gap, an indication of who the most likely voters really are in Sonoma County, said David McCuan, a political scientist at Sonoma State University.

“These voters also tend to be a little bit older than what would qualify as youth,” he said. “They’re 35 and above. At that age, there’s a common icon that isn’t Mick Jagger or Tony Bennett or Willie Mays.”

When voters cast a vote for Mickey Mouse, they’re sending a few messages, McCuan said. Frustration with the electoral process is one common message, he said.

“Campaigns serve an educative role,” said McCuan, adding that if candidates cannot adequately differentiate themselves from their opponents, some voters will resist choosing “between flavors of ice cream.”

That’s when Mickey appears on the ballot, though it could be any pop culture icon, a sports star or actor. Mickey’s popularity, he said, could be a result of his untarnished image all these years.

While today’s pop icons are often compromised by the eventual sex tape or other embarrassing video footage — Justin Bieber recently threw up on stage during a concert — Mickey has been able to keep it clean.

“Mickey is a common icon that everyone can reference without the baggage of so many cultural icons out there,” McCuan said.

But that doesn’t mean he can or should be president, Colter said.

“By not making a decision, you’re allowing other people to make the choice for you,” she said.

10 Responses to “Counting ballots is no funny business”

  1. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    James Todd, maybe she was just afraid to ride with you. Skippy, this has been proven in Florida recently-the throwing away of Democratic registrations. Look it up. The rules do say that 2 people need to bring the ballot box. James Bennett, every post of yours shows your paranoia. Lots of Republicans in my area of Santa Rosa and they have a right to vote. I wouldn’t dream of tricking them out of it, or passing laws to keep them from voting, or EVEN ASKING THEM FOR ID.

    Now whether I agree with their vote, no I don’t. Maybe if you Republicans can come up with a candidate that isn’t ******* crazy, or ignorant, or just plain foolish, someone that would actually represent your interests the election would be healthier for everyone. Someone like an ABE, or TEDDY, or IKE, or even a Nixon (heaven don’t strike me dead for saying Nixon) this country would be better off for all of us.

  2. James Bennett says:

    Sounds like you’re more fired up about the partisan thing than the ballot impropriety thing.

    Lying really isn’t my thing, bag, er…box.

  3. James Todd says:

    Actually Mockingbird, you are incorrect and Mr. Bennett is correct.

    I related to Mr. Bennett an incident of what happened at a polling place in Petaluma during a previous election where one of the volunteers was to transport the ballots to be counted. She wanted to drive them in alone. I insisted on riding with her. She didn’t want me with her but I insisted. She was going to try to transport them herself which to me, is suspect. After a heated discussin where I threatened law enforcement involvement, she finally relented.
    So please, get ALL the facts before you attack someone like Mr. Bennett.
    Also, given the past malfeasance of groups like ACORN who are know to be working primarily on behalf of Democrats, as well as many other well-documented democrat vote-fraud incidents, I wouldn’t cast a net solely over republicans as you have considering an overwhelming amount of vote fraud has come from democrats as of late.
    All you do is make yourself look like an unhinged lunatic harpie.

  4. Skippy says:

    “They are also throwing away registrations that aren’t Republican when they work at registering the populace. Democrats would NEVER DO THIS.”

    Some comments stretch the bounds of reality and history.
    Absolutely the funniest and yet most pitiful post of the election season.

    In case memories are short,….
    “Vote early; vote often.”
    Richard J. Daley, Democrat Mayor of Chicago for about 90 years.

  5. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    James Bennett-you should volunteer to be a poll worker because you don’t know what you are talking about as usual. There are always two people escorting the ballot box to the fair grounds where they are left off and one additional person going to the mailbox with the paperwork that verifies what should be in the ballot box. That ballot box is never left in one person hands and is secured at the end of the day. I’ve been a poll worker for years and years. I have never seen any instance of voter fraud and in fact, Sonoma County goes out of its way NOT to disenfanchise any voters. Afterall, we’re a predominantly progressive county full of Democrats and Greens and WE BELIEVE EVERY CITIZEN HAS A RIGHT TO VOTE EVEN REPUBLICANS AND LIBERTARIANS LIKE YOU.

    Republicans all over the country are trying to take away citizens’ right to vote. THE REPUBLICANS ARE THE ONES COMMITTING THE FRAUD IN THIS COUNTRY with their buying of elections, legislating laws to keep citizens from voting, and instilling fear in voters trying to keep them from going to the polls. They are also throwing away registrations that aren’t Republican when they work at registering the populace. Democrats would NEVER DO THIS.


  6. Snarky says:


    You probably read recently that a judge somewhere in the US (can’t recall where) ruled that “none of the above” is illegal.


    It makes government people really nervous when the voters express their distaste and disgust with government by literally voting “NONE”… because it shows how little support the government really has.

    It would make them even more nervous if there were cameras in the court rooms across the state because then everyone would see how the so called “justice system” isn’t really “just” at all. Its all designed to keep judges, prosecutors, lawyers, clerks, jailers, and other public employees on the job and looking important.

    But no cameras. The judges refuse.

  7. Steveguy says:

    I wish we had ” None of the Above” and if it won, new election with any of those not chosen ineligible for the special election.


  8. James Bennett says:

    From what I understand, there is a little funny business goin’ on.

    Let’s just say a second citizen should accompany the delivery bag cross town.

  9. A Dystopian Phobia says:

    I will be voting for the Tick!

  10. Tommy Pain says:

    As a lifelong Republican, I know I’ll be voting for Mickey Mouse in AD10, he’ll do a much better job that either democrat in the race.