TeamPurpleMN Political Explainer (10/21)– Discussing “Lizard People” Ballots

So you go to the polling booth on election day, or receive your ballot for early/absentee voting, and you get to a race in which you don’t like either candidate.  We here at TeamPurple know it’s tough.  We’ve been there.  So what do you do?  Often people write in a name of someone.

Our position– Write in a vote for “Lizard People.”

You may be like, “But that makes absolutely no sense.”  In most every other state, you would be right.  In Minnesota’s, case though, it makes complete sense.  Let’s dive in.

The story of the Lizard People ballot goes back to the 2008 Senate Election in Minnesota, where incumbent Republican Norm Coleman was facing Democrat Al Franken.  The race was a nail-biter right up until the end, with the recount vote resulting in a 200 vote margin before the Canvassing Board considered undervotes.  “Undervotes” are those that are disputed for some reason, and it’s the Canvassing Board’s duty to ascertain what the voter was conveying at the time and for whom a vote should count.

In the event of one ballot, a voter, Lucas Davenport from Bemidji, had written in “Lizard People” on every line, in every race, but had accidentally filled in the blank next to Franken’s name instead of the write-in circle.  The Canvassing Board considered this an invalid ballot and discarded it.  However, they had previously accepted similar votes, with names as “Flying Spaghetti Monster” and also for “Brett Favre” and “Jesse Ventura” on the write-in line but with the Franken/Coleman circle filled in as votes for the respected candidates. In most situations, nobody would have noticed or cared (the largest recipient of write in votes that year was actually “Brett Favre”), but because it was such a close race and every vote counted, these votes brought on a level of scrutiny.  A court case was inevitable.

In the end, Franken withdrew his claim on the famous discarded”Lizard People” ballot.  However, some of the others WERE counted.  In fact, under the rules put forth by the Canvassing board, it doesn’t matter if 1) the person who is written in does not reside within the jurisdiction for the office and 2) whether or not the person put forth is real or fictitious.  What matters is that an identifying mark signifies the voter’s intentions; this includes the idea of a “protest vote” against candidates for office such as writing in “Mickey Mouse.”  Since no fictitious person has ever won a race in Minnesota, it’s unlikely to cause any real election issues until, somehow, enough write in votes actually elect someone not real.

In the end after 8 months of jockeying and complaints, the Minnesota Supreme Court essentially ended the recount and all the assorted litigation by putting its foot down and claiming Franken the winner.  This effectively ended the cases on those other notorious votes, with their last decision being to accept them as votes.  Since then, “Lizard People” has developed a kind of folklore-ish following in the North Star State, with votes for “Lizard People” showing up in every election cycle since.

I suppose it wouldn’t be so odd, but for the fact some people really do believe Lizard People exist and are running the country.  It’s one of the more obscure conspiracy theories, but it’s been around for a long time.  The Franken-Coleman recount helped spur it on some more.  For instance, check out this article about Lizard People.

So as we wind down towards election day, make sure you get out and vote.  It’s the most important thing we do as citizens.  But if you come across a contest and don’t like any candidates, don’t feel obligated to vote for them.  Every vote should be earned.  If you don’t know who to vote for, fill in the “write-in” circle, and write out “Lizard People” on the line.

Because if neither candidate can beat a “Lizard People” write-in campaign, neither candidate deserves the office.


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