Running as a write-in candidate is a notoriously uphill battle, but two such candidates in Kane County -- despite not winning their races -- stood out for racking up an impressive number of votes.
Pat Graceffa received 428 write-in votes in her bid for a 6-year seat on the Sugar Grove Public Library board, while Bill DiFulvio captured 232 votes in his re-election effort for the South Elgin village board, according to unofficial results from Tuesday's local election.
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Graceffa finished third in the race behind candidates on the ballot who collected 1,068-894 votes. In South Elgin, the three victors' vote tallies ranged from 547-504.
There were 21 write-in candidates in Kane County, out of 591 total candidates. Some write-in candidates won, but only in uncontested races or in races with write-in candidates only.
Trying to win as a write-in against balloted candidates is an especially challenging battle.
"You don't just have to get the vote," said Kane County Clerk Jack Cunningham, "but train the people how to do it."
Graceffa's 428 votes were an "almost impossible" achievement, Cunningham said.
"It's really amazing," he said. "She obviously has a great many people who supported her."
DiFulvio's results were also impressive, Cunningham said. "He should be very proud of that because that's a phenomenal amount of write-in votes."
The next highest write-in vote-getter in Kane County was Geoffrey Carreiro, who won the race for Geneva Township Clerk with 146 votes.
Others, such as Craig Conn, who ran for trustee on the Fox River & Countryside Fire Rescue District, received votes in the single-digits,
Conn said he filed to run on the off-chance another candidate dropped out.
"I'm amazed that I got votes because I barely told anyone about it," he said.
Both Graceffa and DiFulvio had filed to run in December but were stricken from the ballot -- Graceffa after her nominating papers were deemed incomplete, DiFulvio after a Kane County judge ruled in favor of a ballot challenge.
Graceffa said she was pleased with her write-in effort.
"I think in my heart I knew I wasn't going to win. But those 428 people, everyone voted for me -- they didn't just check off Box 1 or 2," Graceffa said.
DiFulvio said he was glad for the support but wished he'd succeeded.
"I should have walked more streets and handed out more postcards," he said.
Being well-known in the community helped their cause, they acknowledged.
Graceffa served as president of the Friends of the Library group before it disbanded in 2011. DiFulvio was a member of the South Elgin board since 2001.
Social media played a role in both campaigns -- Graceffa was on Facebook and Twitter, while DiFulvio enlisted his kids to help reach voters on Facebook.
Graceffa also sends a regular email newsletter to 500 people but said she didn't use that for political means, she added.
Technology has made voting for write-in candidates easier than ever, Cunningham pointed out.
Back in the day, voters had to write the name and the office, plus draw a box with an "X" to cast a vote. Nowadays, a touch screen on a write-in line for each race simply lets people type a name, he said.
Also, it's OK if people misspell names, as long as it's clear who they're voting for, Cunningham said.
"According to the law, what matters is the voters' intent," he said.
The number of write-in ballots discarded wouldn't have been enough to tip the scales for DiFulvio or Graceffa, officials said.
In the South Elgin village board race, 28 write-in votes were not counted, while 35 write-in votes weren't counted in the Sugar Grove library board race, said Suzanne Fahnestock, director of elections for Kane County.
Graceffa said she "absolutely" plans to run again in 2015 for the library board. DiFulvio said he hasn't decided.
"I will stay involved, and I will be very visible in the community," he said.
And if there is a next time, they hope to appear on the ballot.