Cat’s Write-In Campaign Draws Few Votes in Virginia

Washington — Hank the Cat appeared to have all the makings of a successful U.S. Senate candidate: a compelling biography (“born to a single mother living on the streets”), a snazzy website and plenty of free media coverage.

What he didn’t have, aside from opposable thumbs, was a place on the Virginia ballot. So on the advice of his owner, Springfield, Va. freelance photographer Matthew O’Leary, Hank ran as a write-in candidate.

It has never been easy for political hopefuls, feline or otherwise, to run a successful write-in campaign. But in Virginia’s Fairfax County at least, residents used to be able to get an exact tally of all the names voters penciled onto their ballots.

Election officials painstakingly recorded all the names of those real and imagined, from Donald Duck to Darth Vader.

But the county no longer performs that time-consuming ritual. Virginia’s State Board of Elections does not add up how many write-in votes any individual candidates get, nor do other county and city boards. Some don’t record votes for nonhuman or nonexistent candidates.

But a Washington Post review of records from Hank’s own Springfield District, which covers 29 precincts in Fairfax, found that the kitty got at least 13 votes — and possibly 20 more — out of 155 total write-in votes and 54,000 cast overall in the Senate race. Eight of the votes came from Hank’s home precinct — Pohick.

If Hank got the same 0.0006 percent of the statewide vote that he did in his home district, which seems unlikely, then he received roughly 2,000 votes overall.

O’Leary originally estimated that Hank might have drawn thousands more.