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Unpopular Presidential Candidates Influence Voters To Consider Write-Ins

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Yesterday on our show we spoke with Maine's Republican senator, Susan Collins. She's in a tough position as a voter. She doesn't support Trump. She doesn't support Clinton.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

So when she gets to her polling place in November...

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SUSAN COLLINS: I will most likely write in my choice for president.

CORNISH: That's not as simple as it sounds. Five states don't allow write-in voting period. Three more don't allow write-ins for president. The rest do, and voters take advantage.

RICHARD WINGER: There's always thousands of names written in in any important election.

SHAPIRO: That's Richard Winger speaking via Skype. He runs a newsletter called Ballot Access News, and he says that to contain that chaos, most states only count write-in votes for people who have registered as write-in candidates. So all those Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck votes are sadly tossed.

CORNISH: With two historically unpopular major party candidates, voters on the left and right keep talking about write-ins. And if you're one of them - say, a Bernie Sanders diehard - Richard Winger says there is a way to make your vote count.

WINGER: I looked on whitepages.com, and it seems like there's at least 50 people in the United States named Bernie or Bernard Sanders.

SHAPIRO: So you could get one of them to register as a write-in.

WINGER: So then the states would tally write-ins for Bernie Sanders. And it really wouldn't matter that technically they were voting for some other Bernie Sanders instead of Senator Sanders.

CORNISH: Richard Winger's advice to anyone thinking about writing in a candidate is, choose carefully. Make sure your vote counts.

WINGER: You only have one vote for president. It's precious, and you should have the satisfaction of knowing that when they tally up all the votes in the whole country, your vote is included.

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SHAPIRO: We debuted a new segment yesterday called Short Answers to Big Questions in which our resident astrophysicist and blogger Adam Frank answers your questions about things big and small.

CORNISH: He told us that just two or three atoms in an entire cubic meter is pretty common out there between the stars. Some folks, however, paid more attention to the listener's question he answered. If there are points in space with only three atoms per square meter, what fills in the rest?

SHAPIRO: Square meter - oops, we should have caught that. Since we were discussing a volume of interstellar space, the units should have been atoms per meter cubed, not squared. We will be most vigilant of units in the future.

CORNISH: If you have a question about physics, astronomy or science in general, send us a note, and we'll put Adam Frank's Ph.D. to good use - no question too big or too small for our short answers. On Facebook or Twitter, the show is @npratc. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.