In the hours leading up to the release of tonight's election returns, don't waste your bated breath on the victors. After weeks of polling and widening leads, there's little suspense over who will be the next mayor of New York or governor of Virginia or New Jersey. Countless stories will be written about what the exit polls mean for 2016. Pundits are being caught at the exact moment in time when their nostalgia for the last presidential campaign is in perfect balance with their gestating impatience for the next midterms to start. Columnists' campaign to persuade you that their analysis of county-by-county breakdowns of election data proves that Republicans will keep the House or lose it into perpetuity starts at midnight. This is all well and good and predictable and inescapable, but if you drill down far enough into the electoral ephemera, there is a nugget of data that offers a bit more intrigue. How many voters will pick Mickey Mouse?
Write-in candidates have always been prime fodder for keep-your-day-job pranksters and patriots who can't find it in their heart to vote for anyone on the ballot. And Mickey Mouse is always the most frequent guest-star in the discard write-in pile where Donald Duck, God, Me, None of the Above, and other fake candidates perish. As one Georgia election supervisor put it last year, “Mickey always gets votes. If he doesn’t get votes in our election, it’s a bad election." "Donald Duck is a close second," according to a California assistant registrar of votes interviewed in a local paper before the last election. (In 2006, "the Donald Duck Party" outperformed 19 other political parties in Sweden.) Mickey Mouse's permanent slot on election workers' Most Wanted list makes sense; since the cartoon character starred in Steamboat Willie in 1928, he's become emblematic of American culture. Vh1 named him the 17th greatest pop culture icon of all time. Mickey Mouse is basically the microwave dinner of joke votes—effortless, if not inspired, a national staple despite the fact that there are so many better options out there. It's also weird enough that reporters can't help but mention the Mickey Mouse vote count in every election, whether it be a sheriff race in Texas or a nationwide presidential contest. Write-in candidate stories are a prime example of write-off newspaper assignments; these stories aren't going to win the Pulitzer, only a chuckle from a reader or two, which means that no one ever bothers to take the time to look at the trends of inconsequential votes thrown into the ether by apathetic voters. We've managed to build up quite an anthology of campaign stories about Mickey Mouse—as well as a pretty thorough snapshot of the other cultural figures who have come and gone that voters thought would be a good bet to waste their vote on. Here are some of the best.
The New York mayoral race of 1932 is perhaps the first election where Mickey Mouse, barely four years old, made an appearance. He and Al Capone each got a single vote.
In a Georgia congressional race, Willie B., a gorilla, received 390 votes. Mickey Mouse did not fare as well. In 1987, the state passed a law that "voters in Georgia would no longer be allowed to vote for Mickey Mouse in state elections." Wisconsin was considering similar legislation this year. In 1985, San Diego also considered a fake write-in ban. One judge worried that the electoral quirk could mean Mickey Mouse might one day actually get elected to city office. "He's said to have been born in the country—and I guess he's 35." Georgia still counts all the faulty ballots though, even if the candidates could never win. Last year, Mickey Mouse won over 70 votes in the state's 10th congressional district. Honey Boo Boo, a Bag of Rocks, Bacon, and Seymour Butts also received write-in votes in Athens-Clarke County.
Pigasus J. Pig ran as a write-in candidate in the 1968 presidential contest pitting Richard Nixon against Hubert Humphrey. Some of the scattered votes included Mickey Mouse and "those cast by women who dutifully vote for their husbands every four years." In 2009, Vermont pleaded voters to stop writing-in fake candidates. The state's own secretary of state, Deborah Markowitz, admitted to falling prey to the temptation before it was her job to deal with voters. "Occasionally, I would write in my husband's name because I love him and I thought it was cute, and I could tell him at dinner that night that I had voted for him for some office. That was before I realized how much extra work it is for the workers who count the ballots."
In the 1980 presidential election, Connecticut also cast ballots for Richard Nixon, Mary Tyler Moore, Thomas Jefferson, Mayor Ed Koch, Mickey Mouse, Miss Piggy, and "Unborn Child."
In DuPage County, Illinois, voters decided they preferred Frank Zappa, Moon Zappa, Ted Koppel, Nancy Reagan, and Jesus Christ to George H.W. Bush and Michael Dukakis. Los Angeles County off-kilter electoral choices included Mickey, Clint Eastwood, Jesse Jackson, and E.T.
In the 2005 New York City mayoral election, 153 write-in votes were cast. Mickey Mouse, Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Full Public Funding, and the Reverend Al Sharpton each received one vote. In the Democratic mayoral primary this year, Mickey Mouse, Joey Buttafuoco, and Carlos Danger all received votes.
In Sheboygan County, Wisconsin, Mickey Mouse was the write-in of choice, but the county clerk's favorite wasn't Mickey or another popular pick, Chuck Norris. "I have to say my favorite is still Jeffrey Dahmer for coroner. There's always interesting stuff." In 2010, Brett Favre received votes for coroner in Sheboygan, Jack Daniels was a popular pick for sheriff, Kid Rock was mentioned as a potential state treasurer, and several people thought Jon Stewart was a good choice for attorney general. Mickey Mouse was the most popular write-in candidate again, however, receiving "four votes for coroner, two for state representative and one each for governor, clerk of courts, and county clerk." In the presidential election, 11 votes were cast for Mickey Mouse nationwide, meaning he beat out Joe the Plumber, Jesus Christ, and Santa Claus.
Mickey Mouse is a surprisingly popular write-in candidate abroad too. Three years ago, Swedes cast ballots for Mickey Mouse, Harry Potter, Masturbators for Peace, the Small Car and Intoxicating Liquor Federation, the Anti-Sleeping Policeman Party, Your Mother, and Joy Division.
In Travis County, Texas last year, Jesus received more presidential votes than Hillary Clinton, Jon Huntsman, Willie Nelson, Mickey Mouse, and "Nobody." Tupac Shakur, Candy Crowley, Socrates, and Love did not perform as well.