Can a President Be Elected as a Write-In Candidate?

Short Answer: Yes:

TL;DR:

How do we know that a president can be elected as a write-in candidate? Because 18 of them have been:

  • George Washington
  • John Adams
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • James Madison
  • James Monroe
  • John Quincy Adams
  • Andrew Jackson
  • Martin Van Buren
  • William Henry Harrison
  • James K. Polk
  • Zachary Taylor
  • Franklin Pierce
  • James Buchanan
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Ulysses S. Grant
  • Rutherford B. Hayes
  • James A. Garfield
  • Grover Cleveland

That is, every president elected through the year 1884 (John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Andrew Johnson, and Chester A. Arthur were never elected to the presidency; they ascended to it from the vice-presidency when their predecessors died in office).

After the 1884 election, states began adopting the “Australian ballot” — a ballot printed by the government, which of course was allowed to decide whose names could be on it.

Before that, Americans voted by writing down the names of the candidates they supported, or (if they couldn’t write) telling an election official to write those names down for them, or using a ballot given printed and given to them by their parties or other associations of choice.

Yes, the United States was smaller then — only 38 states, with fewer than 10 million votes cast in the 1884 presidential election. On the other hand, election authorities in Grover Cleveland’s time didn’t have computers and optical scanners that could recognize text.

I’d say that 18 presidents is reasonably good proof of concept, wouldn’t you?

Let’s do it for the 19th time in 2024!