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Write-in candidates across the Ozarks see success in April election

Published: Apr. 7, 2021 at 5:29 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Write-in candidates rarely have a chance on election day in the Ozarks. They proved theory wrong Tuesday night in the April municipal election.

Drury University political science professor, Dan Ponder, says it’s usually difficult to win an election as a write-in candidate because it can take a large voter turnout, which local elections don’t often see.

”You have to have a fairly laser-like focus and a lot of people willing to go in and write your name,” Ponder says.

In Tuesday’s election, write-in candidate Dennis Newberry ousted the mayor of Lake Ozark. Seth Thompson was elected to the Ava school board as a write- in.

In Forsyth, candidate Kelly Doughrety won against a write-in candidate by 12 votes.

“To say it’s humbling would be an understatement,” Thompson says. “Just really from the day I decided to run, the community just reached out and really supported me and really helped. It took an army to do it.”

Ponder says in small communities it can be easier for write-ins to get support compared to larger cities like Springfield.

There are different reasons voters want to be write-in candidates. Ponder says they may have missed the original deadline, or have become unhappy with the polarizing political feel of the election, despite the fact that many local elections are considered non-partisan.

“It certainly could be another way for people to express dissatisfaction with the party system,” Ponder says. “In many local elections the elections are technically non-partisan. It could be a way to express their dissatisfaction with the candidates.”

Thompson says he missed the deadline to run, but as he continued to watch school board meetings, he felt he had to run anyway.

“I felt like they really weren’t listening to our community,” Thompson says.” I felt there was a lot of disrespect towards our administration and our teachers and it just lit a fire in me to say hey somebody needs to step up and really fight for our children.”

Ponder says write-in candidates are nothing new, but the difference is that more saw success Tuesday, which can lead to more people considering running as write-ins in the future or more attention given to write-in candidates prior to election day.

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