Which historical figure would you want to represent you in Congress? In one Georgia county, the answer was resoundingly clear: Charles Darwin. The 19th century British naturalist garnered more than 4,000 votes from residents of Athens-Clarke County in a congressional race last week, the Athens Banner-Herald reported.
Thousands of Athens-Clarke residents voted for Darwin as their district’s House representative as a vote of protest against the GOP candidate, Rep. Paul Broun, who was running for reelection unopposed, according to the paper. Broun, who has held the 10th Congressional District seat for five years, stirred up controversy in September when he gave a speech that denounced evolution, embryology and the Big Bang theory. He said evolution and similar scientific theories are “lies straight from the pit of hell.”
“It’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a savior,” Broun said.
Despite the scores of symbolic votes for Darwin — who first developed the scientific argument for the theory of evolution via natural selection — Broun received 16,980 votes in the county, handily defeating his long-deceased contender, the Athens Banner-Herald noted.
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The paper reported that other Georgian counties also collected some votes for Darwin, though several areas would not actually tally votes for him because he was not considered a “properly certified write-in candidate.” A campaign to accumulate mass symbolic support for Darwin, who died in 1882, sprung up after Broun’s controversial anti-science speech to a church group in Hartwell, Ga. Jim Leebens-Mack, a University of Georgia plant biologist, launched a “Darwin for Congress” Facebook page that states, “We have an alternative to Paul Broun. Vote Charles Darwin for Congress as a Write-In candidate for Georgia’s 10th District!”
Leebens-Mack told the Athens Banner-Herald that the number of votes for Darwin was more than he’d anticipated, although it was “in the ballpark.” He said the write-ins made it clear that Broun is “vulnerable” and is not a shoo-in for more re-elections to Congress. Broun first ascended to the House in a special 2007 election, and then he was reelected in 2008 and 2010. He won again this year in the reconfigured 10th District, which was re-drawn as part of congressional reapportionment and contains half of Athens-Clarke County, according to the Banner-Herald. Broun received 209,917 votes throughout the District.
Non-Darwin write-in votes were also cast, Leebans-Mack said, and locals wrote in names including “Big Bird” and “Bill Nye, The Science Guy” as well as less corporeal candidates like “Anyone but Broun” and “Anyone Else.” Independent candidate Brian Russell Brown, the best-finishing legitimate write-in candidate, garnered 200 votes in Athens, the Banner-Herald reported.
“I can’t ever remember seeing a [write-in ballot] report that long,” Athens-Clarke County Elections Supervisor Gail Schrader said after write-in data was released on Thursday.
The Darwin campaign sought to draw attention to the fact that Broun serves on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, despite his ultraconservative leanings, the Huffington Post pointed out.
Of course, Broun is not alone in his convictions. A Gallup poll from June found that 46 percent of Americans believe in creationism, or the idea that God created human beings fully formed within the last 10,000 years.