Another ASSU election season has come and gone, and with it the usual suggestions about replacing the whole system with an algorithm that allocates funding based on some well-researched equation, friends spamming other friends to vote for special fees, and the now-annual write-in campaign for Senator Palpatine. The campaign debuted two years ago during the 2009 ASSU elections, and although Senator Palpatine always loses in a heartbreaking manner (this time he was only 314 votes away), he’s become somewhat of an event to look forward to during the busy month of April.
Now, I have no idea who the actual Senator Palpatine is, but I’m guessing it’s probably some CS major, probably a junior or a senior, with a fantastic sense of humor and enough free time to whip up a script that sends emails to all of the Stanford undergrads from the alias email@example.com (I know nothing about coding but I did watch the Social Network).
Aside from providing Stanford students with some much-needed levity during the how-on-earth-is-supporting-ROTC-a-stand-against-civil-liberties debates that rage on campus in early spring, Senator Palpatine’s campaign also sheds light on the interesting political procedure of write-in campaigns.
The vast majority of write-in candidates are fictional or ineligible people who would never serve in office if elected, like Mickey Mouse or Tony Stark. But in some cases, write-in candidates are very, very real. But why would someone want to start a write-in campaign? Perhaps they didn’t file their paperwork in time and didn’t get their name on the ballot, or they lost a party primary and were still pretty confident that they had the support of enough voters to win.
Although most write-in campaigns end in stunning defeat, there have been some high-profile successes, including last year’s Senate election in Alaska where incumbent Lisa Murkowski defeated Republican Party-endorsed candidate Joe Miller by a margin of 10,000 votes despite losing in the Republican primaries. Some illustrious Stanford alumni who have won write-in campaigns include first ever student at Stanford and the President of the United States of America whose accomplishments we don’t talk about for some reason Herbert Hoover, who won the Republican Massachusetts primary in 1928 with 100,279 votes, and Stanford Business School dropout John F. Kennedy, who won both the Massachusetts and Pennsylvania Democratic primaries as a write-in candidate.
Although write-in campaigns are a largely American phenomenon, they do happen in other countries. In 1967, Honorable Pulvapies ended up becoming the candidate with the most votes in the mayoral elections of Picoazá, Ecuador. This wouldn’t have been much of a problem, except Pulvapies was a foot powder.
So you know what? If a brand-name foot powder can get elected as mayor of an Ecuadorian town, I see no reason why one of the most brilliant minds from a galaxy far, far away shouldn’t be able to win a seat on our ASSU Senate through a write-in campaign. Senator Palpatine 2012 anyone?