A write-in candidate is a candidate in an election whose name does not appear on the ballot, but for whom voters may vote nonetheless by writing in the person’s name. Some states and local jurisdictions allow a voter to affix a sticker with a write-in candidate’s name on it to the ballot in lieu of actually writing in the candidate’s name. Write-in candidacies are sometimes a result of a candidate being legally or procedurally ineligible to run under his or her own name or party. In some cases, write-in campaigns have been organized to support a candidate who is not personally involved in running; this may be a form of draft campaign.
Write-in candidates rarely win, and votes are often cast for ineligible people or fictional characters. Some jurisdictions require write-in candidates be registered as official candidates before the election. This is standard in elections with a large pool of potential candidates, as there may be multiple candidates with the same name that could be written in.
Many states and municipalities allow for write-in votes in a partisan primary where no candidate is listed on the ballot to have the same functional effect as nominating petitions: for example, if there are no Reform Party members on the ballot for state general assembly and a candidate receives more than 200 write-in votes when the primary election is held (or the other number of signatures that were required for ballot access), the candidate will be placed on the ballot on that ballot line for the general election. In most places, this provision is in place for non-partisan elections as well.