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Unhappy with the candidates presented by the two major political parties, voters may turn to third-party candidates come Nov. 8. Others might choose to express their displeasure with the ballot by writing in their own candidate -- even if it seems unlikely that a write-in could garner enough votes to win.

But what some voters might not know is that their write-ins might not even be counted. Under a Wisconsin law signed in 2014, write-in votes are now counted only under one of three circumstances:

  • if no candidate has been certified to appear on the ballot
  • if a certified candidate dies or withdraws before the election
  • if a candidate has registered to be a write-in.

For a write-in candidate to be registered, he or she must file campaign finance statements. If not, any votes that come in for that vote will not be tallied.

"It has really cut down on the senseless time that we have in counting the votes," said Waukesha County Clerk Kathleen Novak. "It has allowed everyone to focus on our serious candidates instead of the typical 'Mickey Mouse' (votes) that we often see."

Under state law, filing as a write-in amounts to going to a local clerk's office and filling out a form by noon the Friday before election day; this year, the deadline is Nov. 4.

Before the change, state law did not require a registration statement to be filed by a specific deadline in order for write-in votes to be counted.

At the Milwaukee County Clerk's office there are currently four candidates who have registered for the Presidential race, one candidate for Congress and one for the State Assembly.

According to Milwaukee County Clerk Joe J. Czarnezki, the change has saved a lot of time for his office due to the vote counters not being required to tally write-in votes that totaled in the single digits. Wauwatosa City Clerk Carla Ledesma echoed those thoughts, saying the change was made to allow ballot counters a better chance at efficiently counting the votes and getting them reported in a more timely manner.

The Wisconsin Municipal Clerks Association's legislative committee is behind the change in the law. According to WMCA President Chris Astrella, the group told state legislators what clerks statewide were dealing with to count write-in votes.

The day before the law was signed by Gov. Scott Walker the spring election in Wauwatosa  April 1, 2014 there were 557 write-in votes cast, which was 5.8 percent of the total number of votes in Wauwatosa with 24 races listed on the ballot.

The first major election after the law was changed came on November 4, 2014 with 10 races on the ballot. There were a total of 1,887 write-in votes cast, or 7.5 percent. That election included a gubernatorial race, which accounts for the increased number of voters.

In this year's spring primary there were 48 write-ins, comprising 6.4 percent of the total votes.

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