Vote for Darwin! Write-In Campaign for the Dead Scientist Garners Him 4,000 Votes


In protest of their creationist congressional representative, voters in Athens-Clark County, Georgia, threw their weight behind the father of evolutionary biology.

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Darwin for Congress/Facebook

Most write-in candidates don't get very many votes. And, in general, dead people don't run the best campaigns. But despite these challenges, on Tuesday 4,000 people in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, wrote in the name Charles Darwin as their candidate for Congress.

That wasn't enough votes to defeat the incumbent Paul Broun, a Republican who believes the Earth was created in six days. Broun sits on the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee.

On October 5, a video of Broun calling evolution, embryology, and the Big Bang "lies straight from the pit of hell" was posted to YouTube. In the days following, University of Georgia plant biologist Jim Leebens-Mack started a Darwin for Congress Facebook page. Other people in the area, including radio host Neal Boortz, had the same idea, all at about the same time, and the idea quickly took off. Broun had no official challenger in the race.

With 4,000 votes for Darwin so far, Leebens-Mack told me the total is "a little bit higher than I was expecting," but, he continued, "as word of mouth spread, it was clear to me that, at least in Athens, there was going to be a big vote for Darwin." Still it doesn't come close to Broun's tally, which is just under 17,000 in Athens-Clarke county alone, and exceeds 200,000 throughout his district. No number would have changed the fact that Broun would retain his seat: write-in candidates who have not filed a notice of intent cannot win office in Georgia.

Darwin may have been a particularly delightful and inspired choice for a write-in candidate, but come 2014 Leebens-Mack is looking forward to finding a candidate who is not just rational but living, too. He hopes that this year's campaign "inspires folks in both the Democratic and Republican parties, and Independents too for that matter, to realize that Broun is vulnerable and that it'd be worth putting a serious candidate up against him."

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Rebecca J. Rosen is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where she oversees the Business Channel. She was previously an associate editor at The Wilson Quarterly.

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