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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/ The Press Democrat)

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.


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