While on the Virginia Department of Elections unofficial results page, as of approximately 1:15 pm on Wednesday, November 4th, I see that Biden(D) has 53.67%, Trump(R) 44.47%, and Jorgensen(L) 1.46%. I also see that Write In has 0.41% (17,400 votes). My assumption (and probably not valid) is that Write In would be someone not one of the three listed earlier.

While I understand that Write In votes at this percentage is not a factor in the results for the Presidential election, I'm curious to know if this percentage of write in votes is on par nationally, low or high?

To keep this in scope, I would go no farther back than perhaps George H. W. Bush.


1 Answer 1


This question is tricky to provide an accurate answer to due to the inconsistencies between reporting of write-in votes. Some states report a total summary figure of 'write-in' votes, in some cases including write-in votes for registered candidates, and in some cases not. Other states provide figures for every separate candidate. As a result, consolidated reporting of write-in figures tends to depend on the methodology of the author.

To use your example of Virginia, the state only started allowing write-in votes in presidential elections in 1997. In 2012, the state reported 7,151 'scattered' write-in votes, 76 for Rocky Anderson, 14 for Jill Reed, and a handful of others, while in 2016, the FEC reports a consolidated write-in 33,749 votes.

I've sourced the figures below from the FEC's official reports, going through the individual state tables from 1992-2016 and summing all individual write-in totals in order to try to mitigate this divergence in reporting standards.

We can see that write-in votes remained relatively low in both absolute number and percentage, despite steadily increasing. This changed radically in 2016, when votes for both Evan McMullin & Bernie Sanders among others lead to a large increase in the number of write-ins. It's still a bit too early to tell whether the 0.4% unofficially reported in Virginia is high compared to the rest of the nation, but compared to 0.85% reported in that state in 2016, it is substantially lower, while still not a return to pre-2016 levels.

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