The battle for the U.S. Senate between Tim Kaine and George Allen in Virginia may have been settled in the litter box instead of the ballot box if the tightly contested election had come down to about 6,000 votes given to a cat.
It’s entirely possible that third-place finisher in Virginia is Hank the Cat, a Maine Coon who ran on a pro-feline, job-creation platform.
In the current online results, Kaine is ahead of Allen by about 184,000 votes as of Thursday morning. The race was expected to be very close, and it was part of a record spending spree in the state that also featured a tight race between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.
But an examination of the official voting ballot online shows that there apparently wasn’t a candidate from a known third party listed on the ballot below Kaine and Allen, unlike past years. There also isn’t a third-party candidate listed on the election board website among its election results.
Hank the Cat had been running for the U.S. Senate since last winter as a part of a spoof on the modern election process. He received extended coverage in The Washington Post in February.
Hank even wrote a campaign blog for The Huffington Post in October, praising another cat running for office in Canada, Tuxedo Stan. That was after Hank survived an attack ad launched by a faux pro-dog super PAC.
Unfortunately for Hank, TV show host Ellen DeGeneres gave a public endorsement to Stan, and not Hank, on her show.
“I don't like to get political—but I would vote for that cat,” she said.
While having a cat run for the Senate may seem like a joking matter, a total of more than 6,000 votes in a close election isn’t.
A future president, Lyndon B. Johnson, won his first U.S. Senate race in Texas by 27 votes. And we all know how close the 2000 presidential race was in Florida.
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Today in Wisconsin, functional control of that state’s Senate will come down to an election decided by 590 votes.
And for the record, Hank’s total is about 7,000 votes less than the presidential votes received in Virginia by Virgil Goode, who was seen as a potential spoiler in the Obama-Romney race.
Back in Virginia, we found the official election results from Tuesday’s Senate race.
Kaine has 1.9 million votes, while Allen has 1.7 million. The total number of write-in votes was 29,121.
Fairfax County, where the cat’s campaign is located, cast a total of 1,989 write-in votes, while about 22,000 write-ins came from Arlington County.
In past U.S. Senate elections in Virginia, Hank would have finished in fifth place in 2008, and in fourth place in 2006.
Virginia doesn’t list the names of write-in candidates, but it does show the number of write-in votes by county. So we don’t know for sure if Hank came in third, but it’s a growing possibility.
Matthew O'Leary, the campaign manager for Hank, tells Constitution Daily that his candidate has 6,832 votes as of Thursday morning, not counting absentee and provisional ballots.
O'Leary says it is the highest total for a write-in U.S. Senate candidate in Virginia since 2002, which would likely indicate that Hank finished third behind Kaine and Allen, when the election board releases that data.
O'Leary hopes to have a final vote count on Tuesday, November 13, when Virginia’s precincts have to file certified results. He also will contact each of Virginia’s 134 precincts to request write-in results.
And in case you’re wondering, it doesn’t appear Hank would be constitutionally eligible to hold office.
For starters, Hank is just 10 years old. A U.S. senator has to be 30 years of age (and most likely a human) to hold office.
Scott Bomboy is the editor-in-chief of the National Constitution Center.