Correction: Washington State write-in statutes do not apply for the presidential race, as that race's nominating process is defined by the Constitution. Any write-in vote for president will be counted, regardless if the candidate registered with the state. An earlier version of this article said that presidential write-in votes would only count if the candidate had filed to be a write-in candidate in Washington State.

For example, if a person wrote in Bernie Sanders for president, that vote would be counted in a lump with other write-in presidential votes. If the total number of write-in votes is more than the winning presidential ticket, then the write-in votes would be individually tabulated.

If Sanders were to win the election with write-in votes, it is unclear if the Democratic electors would be bound to vote for Sanders since he was not the Washington State Democratic Party's nominees.

"It would be uncharted territory for sure," wrote Secretary of State Kim Wyman in an email.


If you write in a name on your Washington state ballot, your vote is valid -- as long as that person has registered to be a write-in candidate.

State law puts some limits on write-in candidates for state level races.

RCW 29a.24.311 reads (Paragraph 3 is key here):

(1) Any person who desires to be a write-in candidate and have such votes counted at a primary or election may file a declaration of candidacy with the officer designated in RCW 29A.24.070 not later than the day ballots must be mailed according to RCW 29A.40.070. Declarations of candidacy for write-in candidates must be accompanied by a filing fee in the same manner as required of other candidates filing for the office as provided in RCW 29A.24.091.

(2) Votes cast for write-in candidates who have filed such declarations of candidacy need only specify the name of the candidate in the appropriate location on the ballot in order to be counted. Write-in votes cast for any other candidate, in order to be counted, must designate the office sought and position number, if the manner in which the write-in is done does not make the office or position clear.

(3) No person may file as a write-in candidate where: (a) At a general election, the person attempting to file either filed as a write-in candidate for the same office at the preceding primary or the person's name appeared on the ballot for the same office at the preceding primary;

(b) The person attempting to file as a write-in candidate has already filed a valid write-in declaration for that primary or election;

(c) The name of the person attempting to file already appears on the ballot as a candidate for another office, unless the other office is precinct committee officer or a temporary elected position, such as charter review board member or freeholder;

(d) The office filed for is committee precinct officer.

(4) The declaration of candidacy shall be similar to that required by RCW 29A.24.031. No write-in candidate filing under this section may be included in any voter's pamphlet produced under chapter 29A.32 RCW unless that candidate qualifies to have his or her name printed on the general election ballot. The legislative authority of any jurisdiction producing a local voter's pamphlet under chapter 29A.32 RCW may provide, by ordinance, for the inclusion of write-in candidates in such pamphlets.

The state says it will not count individual write-in votes unless the total number of write-ins exceeds the number of votes received by the top vote-getter on the ballot.