Voter: ‘I just can’t vote for either’

  • Vermin Supreme 1 made it on to all three on this Republican primary ballot. GEOFF FORESTER

Monitor staff
Sunday, November 06, 2016

Paul Angwin has voted in almost every election since he turned 18 more than 60 years ago. But the Concord Republican faces an impossible dilemma Tuesday – for the first time in his life he can’t support either major presidential candidate.

“I am completely confused,” said Angwin, shaking his head as he leaned against his kitchen table a week ago. “I just can’t vote for either.”

Instead of leaving the bubble blank, Angwin plans to write-in Ohio Gov. John Kasich for president.

He isn’t alone. Dissatisfied voters of all stripes are turning to write-in candidates and third party choices as a form of protest this year.

The most high-profile example is U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte. The Republican denounced party nominee Donald Trump last month and announced plans to write in his running mate, Mike Pence, for president.

Some Democrats disappointed with Hillary Clinton say they will write in her former rival Bernie Sanders for president. The Vermont senator won New Hampshire’s primary by double digits, but has since endorsed Clinton.

Sanders “is the only candidate I feel that I can honestly proudly cast my vote for,” said Kate Savage, a 43-year-old from Jefferson who is independent but tends to lean Democrat.

New Hampshire is one of a handful of states nationwide that counts write-in votes without requiring any pre-election paperwork from the candidate.

It’s impossible to tell exactly how many votes will go for write-in or third-party choices on Election Day. But some worry the bloc could affect the presidential contest in New Hampshire, by pulling votes away from Clinton and Trump, who are now separated by just a few percentage points.

The League of Conservation Voters recently launched a $2.6 million campaign in six battleground states including New Hampshire to dissuade voters from third-party candidates Gary Johnson, a Libertarian, and Jill Stein, of the Green Party.

“A vote for Johnson or Stein helps Trump win,” says one mailer the left-leaning advocacy group sent to millennial voters across New Hampshire last week.

Support for third-party candidates and write-ins has fallen in recent months as the general election draws near.

Together, the alternative candidates capture roughly 10 percent of the vote in current polls, down from a peak of roughly 20 percent this summer, said Andy Smith, director of the UNH Survey Center.

“As you get closer and closer to the election, people come back to their party,” he said.

Johnson and Stein are polling at 6 and 1 percent in New Hampshire, respectively, according to a WMUR Granite State Poll released last week. “Someone else,” which could include write-ins, captured 3 percent of the vote, the survey showed. Those totals are all down from the previous poll.

In the last presidential election, write-ins won fewer than 2,600 votes out of more than 700,000 cast. The third-party candidates picked up 9,000 votes.

Party officials are confident this year the alternative vote won’t sway the results.

“Democrats voters painfully know all too well after 2000 it is not worth voting on a third-party candidate,” said Ray Buckley, chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party.

In the 2000 presidential election, Democrat Al Gore lost to Republican George Bush by fewer than 7,300 votes. Third-party candidate Ralph Nader picked up almost 23,000 votes. Had Gore carried New Hampshire and secured the state’s four electoral votes, he would have won the election, with or without Florida.

Clinton still leads Trump according to the WMUR Granite State Poll, but the margin has slipped. Both candidates remain deeply unpopular in the state.

“There are some people who won’t vote for Hillary Clinton who are Democrats, there are some Republicans who might not vote for Donald Trump,” said Steve Duprey, a Republican National Committeeman. “I don’t think it will amount to a significant portion.”

(Allie Morris can be reached at 369-3307 or amorris@cmonitor.com.)