The 2012 elections are over. Some people are happy, some people are not, and for some voters, they let their disenchantment show on the ballot. Many people exercised not only their Constitutional rights to vote, but also the power of the pen, writing in alternative candidates for several offices.
For President, the most popular write-in choice was Ron Paul for serious voters, and there were even a few write-ins for Big Bird. Cranston voters cast a total of 92 write-in ballots for the office of President.
"Write-in votes tallied in around 2,378 votes, with Ron Paul receiving the majority with about 38 votes for President. Numbers received by other write-ins paled by comparison, with most receiving just one or two votes,” said Jackie Caruolo, registrar for the Cranston Board of Canvassers.
Caruolo attributed the large increase in write-in ballots to the fact that so many candidates were unopposed. In Cranston’s State House delegation, Representatives Charlene Lima, Peter Palumbo, Joseph McNamara, David Bennett and Stephen Ucci all had no opponents going into the November election. At the local level, the mayor and three School Committee candidates were all unopposed.
Caruolo said the number of write-ins also increases in correlation with voter turnout. It was a Presidential election year, which naturally brings out more voters.
At the polls, some voters expressed frustration that they had no option for who to vote for mayor. For the first time in the city’s history, there was only one mayoral candidate on the ballot.
Donna Turchetta, who voted at Hope Highlands Elementary School, was disappointed that the city’s Democratic Party did not put up a candidate for the city’s highest office.
"I am a Democrat, have been all my life. My parents, husband, three brothers and my children all vote Democrat. I was surprised and disappointed that the Democrats in my city could not come up with a viable candidate for Mayor,” she said.
Although Fung had no challenger, Turchetta opted to withhold her support for the Republican incumbent.
“I left it blank. I hope in the years to come, we can do better," she said.
In total, 802 ballots listed write-in candidates for mayor; not surprising in a city with 18,208 registered Democrats. By comparison, there are only 5,678 Republicans in Cranston. Unaffiliated voters still make up the lion’s share of the electorate locally, however, with 30,495 voters having no political affiliation.
A ballot is considered blank for several reasons, including if the office is truly being left blank, if write-in candidates are illegible, if the arrow is not properly connected or if a candidate is already running for another office.
Besides mayor, the two offices that were most left blank were School Committee seats. Michael Traficante, who was unopposed for the citywide seat, had 680 write-ins for his office. The other unopposed committee candidates, Paula McFarland and Trent Colford, had 75 and 80 write-ins, respectively.
For the citywide seat, there were two write-in nominations of familiar Cranston names. One vote was for former mayoral candidate Richard Tomlins, and another was for Jessica Ahlquist, the Cranston West student who was involved with the prayer banner controversy.
Even with seven candidates to choose from for the three available seats, the citywide council seat elicited 110 write-in ballots.
While results were available the same night, the process of tallying write-in votes and putting them into the record extends into the days following the election.
“It took roughly 12 to 16 staff hours to compile and record the votes," Caruolo said.
Candidates elected in Cranston will begin serving their terms in January, after the official inauguration. For a complete break down of how Cranston voted, go to www.ri.gov/election/results/2012/general_election/cranston/.