Bernie Sanders has dropped out of the race and endorsed Hillary Clinton, but Google data suggests he still might get a bunch of write-in votes on Election Day.
According to Google, search interest in "write-in" has been surging nationwide. Google provides this data on a 0-100 scale. In mid-August, national search traffic for "write-in" hovered in the mid 40s; in October it has bounced around in the 80s and 90s, hitting a peak of 100 on Oct. 13. That was the day The New York Times published allegations from four women that Trump had made unwanted sexual advances many years ago.
Sanders was the top mentioned candidate in "write-in" searches in 6 of 10 states with the highest "write-in" search intensity in October. Republican alternative Evan McMullin took the top spot in one of these states — Oklahoma — and in the three others, there was not enough data about individual searches for Google to release the data.
Each state has its own rules for presidential write-in ballots, and only a handful allow write-in votes for candidates who have not registered their names. But among that handful are New Jersey, Vermont, Rhode Island and New Hampshire — the very states showing highest search interest in "write-ins" and where Sanders is the top searched name.
Of course, since Sanders isn't actually running for president anymore, a flurry of write-in Bernie votes seem unlikely to have any impact on the race. Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump by an average of about 7 points in the polls in the New Hampshire, and the other states are considered very safe Democratic territory. But it would be an interesting sign of Democratic dissatisfaction if Sanders takes a significant number of write-in votes in deep blue New Jersey or Vermont.
More interesting could be the alternative Republican Evan McMullin, who is actively campaigning for write-in votes in several states. McMullin is the top searched candidate in "write-in" searches in Ohio and Arizona, two states where Clinton and Trump are essentially tied in the polls, and in both states, McMullin is a registered write-in candidate with an active ground operation, said adviser Joel Searby. Both states are in the top 20 for "write-in" search interest, according to Google.
"We have state chairmen in both to get out the vote," Searby said. "We think we can impact the election in Ohio, Arizona, Wisconsin and Wyoming as a write-in." Clinton leads maintained a lead over Trump of about 7 points in recent Wisconsin polls, and Trump had a 35-point lead in an August Wyoming poll.
Richard Winger, the editor of Ballot Access News, warns that in some states write-in votes are allowed but election officials don't bother reporting the totals. "Iowa has never reported any presidential write-in votes in history," Winger said, and in New Hampshire the secretary of state "makes an arbitrary decision which write-in presidential candidates to include" in public reports.