Can you spell Nakamura? San Diego School Board trustee Katherine Nakamura, who is attempting a write-in reelection bid, thinks it’s a doozy, and wants her voters to be able to use stickers with her name pre-printed on them. Unfortunately for her, she lost in the primary election, and San Diego city rules say that write-in campaigns are not permitted. Nakamura has brought her case before the California Superior Court, requesting that she be permitted to stage a write-in campaign and that voters be permitted to place stickers with her name on them on the ballot, rather than actually writing in her name. The court has yet to decide whether any write-in votes will count, but it gave Nakamura the green light to seek the 200 signatures required to qualify as a write-in candidate. The court did decide, though, that Nakamura can distribute stickers, and that voters can bring the stickers to the polling places, but that they may not paste them on the ballot. Indeed, California law prohibits the use of stickers to express votes for write-in candidates. Does this law make sense? Is it constitutional? This post seeks to analyze the arguments for and against such a law.
In 1926, the California Supreme Court decided that the placement of a sticker on a ballot is not “writing,” and as such is not a permissible way to vote for a write-in candidate. In support of its position, the court explained the repercussions of allowing the use of stickers, quoting the Illinois Supreme Court: “[I]f [stickers] may be resorted to by one candidate, they may be by all, and the official ballot might become but little more than a convenient card upon which to paste private tickets printed and circulated in secret. The use of such tickets would revive the evils sought to be guarded against by ballot law.” Continue reading