With election day looming, I’ve heard chatter from friends and colleagues that they “still don’t know who to vote for.” They’ve looked at the candidates – or not – and are in an undecided position. Or, possibly, the candidate they most want to vote for doesn’t appear on their ballot. Enter Magnus E. Magpie. Edmonton’s most famous magpie has been touting his election intentions on twitter for some time now. With campaign promises like shrimp rings for all citizens, his platforms are appealing. Sure, he’s not on the ballot… but that hasn’t stopped a write-in from winning before.
What is a write-in, you ask? Well. Fantastic question, thank you for asking. Let me answer that for you. A write-in candidate is one whose name doesn’t appear on the ballot, but voters have decided to write them in anyways, because that’s who they want to vote for. This is primarily an American thing, so before we get too far here, I should clarify that a write-in candidate in our own election would constitute a spoiled ballot. The Canada Elections Act dictates that any votes given for a person other than a candidate are void; thus preventing write-ins. However, the notion of a write-in candidate is hardly new, and has resulted in some fairly surprising election results in the past.
It may surprise you to know that although write-in candidates rarely win, some have been quite successful. In 1928, Herbert Hoover won the Republican Massachusetts presidential primary on write-in votes. In 1940, Franklin D. Roosevelt did the same in the Democratic New Jersey presidential primary, as did John F. Kennedy in the Democratic Pennsylvania presidential primary and the Democratic Massachusetts presidential primary in 1960. There have been write-in winners at the Senate and House of Representatives level as well, along with different levels of local government. Sometimes voters will use a completely impossible write-in scenario to protest a point, using people who are no longer alive, or fictional characters. In 2012, Charles Darwin received almost 4,000 write-in votes in Athens-Clarke County for the congressional district seat held by Republican Paul Broun, who had called evolution and the Big Bang Theory “lies straight from the pit of hell.” Since Broun had no official opposition on the ballot, locals started a write-in campaign for sir Darwin, who (though he didn’t win) amassed a surprising number of votes for a dead guy. Another non-living write-in is one Alfred E. Neuman, who has been satirically promoted by MAD Magazine as a write-in candidate in every US election starting in 1956.
Magnus Magpie would not be the only non-human write-in candidate, should he have had the opportunity. In São Paulo, Brazil, a popular rhinoceros named Cacareco received approximately 100,000 votes in the 1959 elections for municipal council, more than any official candidate on the ballot. They did not have to renovate city hall for Cacareco, though, as Brazilian laws stipulated candidates be tied to a political party to take office, which Cacareco was not. More recently, in 1997, a cat named Stubbs was elected mayor of Talkeetna, Alaska. Though the validity of his write-in campaign is questionable, the feline has been re-elected mayor in each subsequent election since, and still holds the title. Even stranger, perhaps, than electing an animal mayor, is electing a FOOT POWDER. A unique advertising campaign was held in Picozá, Ecuador during their 1967 municipal elections. The ads for a foot powder, Pulvapies, featured slogans like “For Mayor: Honourable Pulvapies.” Another was “Vote for any candidate, but if you want well-being and hygiene, vote for Pulvapies.” Mayhem ensued when the popular product actually garnered more write-in votes than the human candidates, who threatened to sue the pharmaceutical company responsible.
So there we have it, folks. Who knows; maybe Magnus E. Magpie would make a great city leader. You can even get a twibbon to show your support, or follow him on twitter at @yegmagpie to keep up with his latest news.
Just don’t let him get too close to Talkeetna for mayoral meetings.
This writer was fortunate enough to be granted an interview from Mr. Magpie. We went through a brief Q & A session regarding his mayoral intentions.
Q. If you are elected mayor, how will you work to keep from being distracted by shiny things?
A. Well, there are two plans being pecked around by my campaign advisors right now:
a) Fill Edmonton with so many shiny things that I eventually become totally desensitized to them and stop being distracted; or,
b) Some kind of elaborate blinder system involving pipecleaners and crafting foam. If questioned, I will inform people that having an eight-second attention span is a medical condition and I am wearing prostheses should not be mocked or denigrated in any way, as it WAIT HANG ON THERE’S SOMETHING SHINY OVER THERE I’LL COME BACK TO THIS INTERVIEW IN A MINUTE I THINK IT MIGHT BE A QUARTER…
Q. What is your vision of an “inclusive” Edmonton?
A. I see an Edmonton with firm and decisive anti-bullying and anti-harassment policies, sensitivity training for police officers, healthcare professionals, and red-tailed hawks; I see neighbourhoods with good lighting, a healthy sense of community, clean alleyways, folks who know their neighbours, watch out for suspicious activity, and welcome new families to their streets with bake sales and block parties; schools and playgrounds not segregated by culture or class, where kids can play in safety and drop their delicious snacks on the ground for local birds; businesses that welcome local and global investments while being free to operate without crippling municipal restrictions, and cake trucks in every neighbourhood.
Q. What are the top three things you’d prioritize once in office?
1. Shiny things
3. Public transit
Q. How will you fund your promise to give all Edmontonians shrimp rings? Will this be paid for by an increase in property taxes?
A. I am planning on instituting an income-based head tax on all invasive species, such as pigeons, starlings, and emus. This should be more than enough to fund shrimp rings for all Edmontonians who apply! For those who have seafood allergies, of course, I will make alternate arrangements; my friend Steve will come over to their house and sing them a song from the ‘Oklahoma’ musical.
Q. How would you work to create a cohesive council, seeing as you’d be the first bird in the mayor’s chair? Also, incidentally, how would you sit in a mayor’s chair? Would you kind of fly around during meetings, or…?
I have often been asked similar things on Twitter, given my unfortunate tendency to give as-yet-nonexistent council spots to things like talking cats and giant ballbearings. The plan is, actually, to have more frequent meetings with my councillors, but only allow them to express their opinions using charades. In this way, I believe there will be greater interaction between the councillors, and the meeting minutes will be much shorter. I am a big believer in concise documentation. I would like to commission a local artist to create a magpie-hiney-sized chair, made out of poplar wood and carved with symbols of our city, such as the High Level Bridge, the beautiful river valley, the Muttart pyramids, and a green onion cake. If we put a dab of rubber cement on the seat I might even be able to sit still for the entire meeting!
Q. How would you re-decorate or renovate the mayor’s office if you win?
I would probably decorate it similarly to my nest, which is in a very flowing, organic style highly reflective of my personality and past. So, disco balls, mirrors, gilt leaf on everything, chrome, confetti, stacks of coins and found glasses, a mini-bar, and 35 places to hide in case a falcon sees me. Also, I would install bird decals on the windows so I always have someone to talk to.
Q. What are your thoughts on infill?
Infill and therefore density is important for a vibrant city! As long as it can always be done in a fashion that doesn’t offend, block, or otherwise harass the neighbours, it’s always better to be closer together than to be further apart; it fosters a sense of protectiveness, creativity, and community. Also, my rural supporters would prefer that we leave that good black farmland dirt alone around the city so it can be used to grow crops to feed magpies! Finally, the less far we have to fly to get to a bird feeder, the better; I’m sure everyone can agree on that.
Q. How about potholes?
I plan to institute a pothole protected area, where they can breed, grow, and play in freedom! Speaking from personal experience, a city with no potholes is a city with no outdoor asphalt-flavoured drinking water, as well as nowhere to bathe in public – so I don’t believe they should be outlawed. Rather, they should be protected and conserved outside of city limits, so tourists can come visit them and see what made our city known country-wide. All urban potholes will be gently relocated, using asphalt and road fill.
Q. Red tape? World class? Arena.
I love shiny red tape! Shiny shiny shiny! Have you got any? Can I have some? Kekkekkekkekkek oh do excuse me, I am so sorry. ‘World class’ is an overused phrase that should, like ‘irregardless,’ never be used by anyone who wishes to be taken seriously. I think ‘corvid class’ is a much more effective expression. As discussed on Twitter, I believe we have not been creative enough in thinking of uses for the arena. I’m thinking – slushie or jello parties during hot weather! A public space for putting people in stocks, such as anyone who rams you with a stroller whilst in Ikea, or the jerks who mis-use handicapped parking spots without a placard, or ‘mens rights’ activists, or sparrows that swoop into the bird table at the last minute and take the exact peanut you were going to take. I also think during cold weather we should use it for gigantic movie showings; admission fees would get you a blanket and a cup of hot cocoa, and we could all sit out together in the snow and watch warm-weather movies like ‘Predator.’ Finally, I would like to use it to encourage local artists to get together in a giant artists’ collective in between events, for huge pieces of collaborative art such as murals or really big quilts.
Q. What are your qualifications? Any type of experience that would make you a great mayor?
Well, we magpies are very social and good at talking to people! (Not that everyone always understands us, but even so.) I also have a slightly longer attention span than a lot of other politicians. Furthermore, I believe in dressing nicely every day, and I dry-clean my tux once a week, unlike some other magpies who only do it at the equinox, which is considered lucky. I’m inclusive, understanding, can type really fast, and would only rarely use public money for my own private use, such as buying Doritos in bulk. Finally, I was the president of my kindergarten class in 2011 and was rated very highly in my exit polls.
Q. Any parting thoughts for voters?
If we are to be truly known as Magpietown, we need a magpie mayor!