What do Porky Pig, Darth Vader, Ernie Nijem, Mickey Mouse, Daffy Duck, David Sumner and Joe Schmoe have in common? They all received write-in votes in Tuesday's election in Valdosta.
The votes don't count, not only because most of them could not serve (Disney and Warner Brothers don't allow their cartoon characters to hold office), but because voters cannot draft a write-in candidate.
The Secretary of State's office said a person who wanted to wage a write-in campaign had to declare so within seven days after qualifying for the open offices ended. In the case of the Valdosta city races, that was Sept. 13. The candidate would then have had to take out an advertisement in the legal publication. None of those who received votes Tuesday had done that.
But humor aside, the write-in votes reflect real feelings on the part of some voters.
Voters within the City of Valdosta added 206 names to ballots Tuesday, with the majority, 112, in the mayor's race. The name most often mentioned was David Sumner, who was appointed mayor by City Council two days after James H. Rainwater's death. As a symbolic gesture, some voters chose Rainwater, and one person wanted Nijem, another mayor who is deceased.
People were clearly confused.
Dexter Sharper, who was on the ballot seeking re-election to his District 1 seat, received write-in votes for mayor and for the at-large Council seat. One person wrote in "Richard Sumner," but added "present mayor" parenthetically, just to make sure. Two wrote simply "Sumner," while another wrote "David Summer" for the at-large council seat.
David Sumner was officially on the ballot seeking re-election for his District 5 seat. He did not have a challenger, and he had not qualified as a write-in candidate for any other seat. He could not have even if he wanted.
Local elections can be confusing, and this was made worse by Council's lawsuit that ignored the obvious: A dead man cannot be elected to office. Neither can a cartoon character.
Here's a Rant received last week:
"I'm sure that the VDT supports Fretti. But to ignore the fact that a lot, possibly a majority, of people feel unrepresented by him. This Valdostan will inquire about a recall petition. So come on VDT, show your lack of bias and print this Rant."
Last Sunday, the newspaper's editorial board endorsed Fretti in his mayoral bid, so that much support is obvious. But a majority of the board also endorsed every incumbent on City Council. An endorsement does not mean the newspaper will always "support" an elected official.
Consider the fact we published a story about a quote from Saxby Chambliss about Muslims that garnered national attention. But a majority of the editorial board decided he was a better candidate than Max Cleland, and endorsed Chambliss in his Senate run.
Consider the fact we wrote a story about how City Council voted in an illegal closed meeting to give a bonus to City Manager Larry Hanson. The editorial board thought the bonus was OK but the way it was done was wrong. However, Council members make many votes in four years, and the editorial board weighs candidates in their totality.
I'm sure the editorial board of this newspaper will rile Mr. Fretti on occasion as much it did with Mr. Rainwater. That's what newspapers are for.
Ron Wayne is the editor of The Valdosta Daily Times. He can be reached at 244-3400, ext. 229, or e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org