A trope that appears when an election is involved, is that some people might put forth or support a candidate not because they like the person, but because they want to play a prank. Oftentimes, the prank will be played on the person when they win, usually when they get on stage. Other times the act of electing this person is a joke. If this is the case, the person elected is someone who isn't taken seriously or viewed as a buffoon.
Most examples take place in a school setting and typically involve positions like class president or prom queen. However, this can happen in elections where there are real stakes. In this case, people will support this candidate as a protest vote to demonstrate their displeasure with the system.
Contrast with Dork Horse Candidate, where the candidate genuinely wants to run and their supporters really do want them to win. Compare with Promoted to Scapegoat. Will often be a tool of the Prom Wrecker. Can lead to a Gone Horribly Right situation if the candidate wins. While this phenomenon does occur in the real world, No Real Life Examples, Please!
- In Prez (2015), Beth's Instant Humiliation: Just Add YouTube! incident coincides with a Presidential election, and somebody starts a satirical online campaign promoting her as a write-in candidate. Due to the major parties shooting themselves in the feet with their own political chicanery, she ends up actually getting selected as the next President of the United States.
- In Election, Jim McAllister goads Dumb Jock Paul Metzler into running for Student Body President just to fuck with Tracy Flick, who is running unopposed, as Jim hates Tracy and blames her for a teacher-student affair that ruined his best friend's career. Shortly after, Paul's brother Tammy decides to run for Student Body President - on a platform of abolishing the position - just to fuck with Paul, whom she blames for supposedly turning her ex-girlfriend straight.
- The 2014 film Touched by Grace is about this trope. Alpha Bitch Skylar wants to be homecoming queen, but to get on the ballot she needs to win her homeroom's nomination in a two-way vote. Skylar's friend nominates Grace, a girl with Down Syndrome, to run against her, assuming that Skylar would win in a landslide. However, other students overhear their plotting and convince the class to vote for Grace to get revenge on Skylar. Afterwards, Skylar tries to help Grace win the vote so she can humiliate her in front of the entire school afterwards and have he friend Cara take the blame.
- Carrie: This is how Chris plans to get back at Carrie after she gets banned from prom for bullying Carrie. She rigs the vote for prom queen so that Carrie and Tommy will win. When they come on stage to be crowned, she dumps a bucket of pig's blood on her. She accomplishes this by having her friends volunteer to help collect and count the votes for prom queen and king. However, this backfires when Carrie becomes angered and kills them all with her psychic powers.
- In Daniel Pinkwater's Young Adult Novel, the Wild Dada Ducks create a propaganda campaign for Kevin Shapiro's write-in candidacy for student council president. The campaign is full of silly, hyperbolic claims about the nerdy and unpopular Kevin Shapiro, and is enacted as an absurdist art piece and in-joke (he just happens to have the same name as a fictional character the Ducks created). However, things go horribly right when Kevin Shapiro is unanimously elected, and proceeds to rule the school with an iron fist.
- A Song of Ice and Fire: During the election for Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, the cook Three Finger Hobb is put forward as a candidate. He receives a small number of votes in each ballot. When one character asks why people support him, to which someone speculates that his supporters just want him out of the kitchens.
- Schooled: Claverage Middle School or "C Average" as it's known in-universe has a tradition of nominating whoever is lowest in the societal totem pole for student council president and making sure they "run" unopposed, and watching as they go insane. Apparently it's been going on for a while, so no one bats an eyelid when Zach pulls this on Capricorn Anderson. However, it starts backfiring spectacularly for Zach when Cap genuinely becomes popular.
- 30 Rock: One episode had Liz going to her High School Reunion with Jack. Liz, who had imagined herself as a put-upon nerd when she was in high school, realizes her classmates viewed her as the Alpha Bitch. Jack meanwhile impersonates a former student who didn't show up to the reunion and becomes popular with Liz's classmates. He learns that they plan to get back at Liz by voting her Best School Spirit and dumping something unpleasant on her when she goes to accept the award. Jack is able to intervene and defends Liz to the crowd.
- Austin & Ally: One episode features a singing competition where it is revealed that the producers always have a joke contestant, who this time is a young girl with little singing ability. After the girl gets trained by Austin, Ally, Dez, and Trish, she winds up becoming an insanely talented singer who manages to win the contest.
- In Awkward., the nerdy, awkward, unpopular Kyle was nominated as part of Prom Court as a potential King, along with Jenna as a potential Queen, both as joke votes. While Jenna caught onto the joke almost immediately, Kyle legitimately thought people might vote for him, building up to an eventual, cruel heartbreak when he didn't win. Then Matty, who actually won, lied and claimed that Kyle won, allowing Kyle to be the Prom King.
- The Brady Bunch: Marcia's classmates nominate a nerdy,unpopular girl for host of the senior banquet as a prank. Marcia tries to do a My Fair Lady plot and give her a real chance but the girl lets her new popularity go to her head. Worse, the original other candidate can't continue to run and Marcia is now the girl's opponent. She ultimately comes around though and she and Marcia end up co-hosting the banquet.
- Cheers: Frasier gets Woody on the ballot for city councilman, just to prove that at least ten percent of the voters would be gullible enough to vote for him based on nothing more than meaningless slogans. Woody wins, to Frasier's horror.
- Glee: After Kurt returns to William McKinley, he starts to feel like the student body is starting to tolerate his homosexuality. This changes on prom night when he gets elected Prom Queen. To make matters worse, the Prom King is Karofsky, Kurt's bully turned protector.
- In an episode of Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide, Ned runs for class president against Suzie, the incumbent candidate, and The Weasel, a random weasel living in the school's ventilation systems. The Weasel wins.
- Malcolm in the Middle:
- Reese and Malcolm enter Lois in the Mrs. Tri-County Pageant, a beauty pageant for middle aged women, as joke. When Hal finds out that the boys did it because they thought it would be funny to see Lois make a fool of herself in public, he forces them into seeing this through if they don't want to suffer another punishment should Lois find out why they signed her up.
- A bully nominates two of Dewey's special needs classmates to run for student council as a joke. Dewey retaliates by nominating the bully, because as much as his friends would embarrass themselves, it would be far more humiliating to lose to them.
- Parks and Recreation: In "New Slogan", the government of Pawnee decides to have its citizens vote on a new town slogan, though the citizens begin voting for the write-in option, "Pawnee: Welcome To Douche Nation". Leslie frantically tries to get them to vote for a more normal option, which backfires and the citizens vote for "Pawnee: Home To the Stick Up Leslie Knope's Butt". However, the citizens eventually agree to vote for a more respectable slogan.
- In Rake, this is how Cleaver ends up as a politician at the end of Season 4. Unlike most examples of this trope, he nominates himself as a prank, to mess with his much-disliked sister Jane, who is running for office. He intentionally runs without policies and the prank gains him so many fans that he wins the election.
- Victorious: When Tori gets the school to have a prom, she accidentally gets Jade's play cancelled, as it was scheduled on the same night. Jade proceeds to do everything she can to ruin the prom, including hiring a guy to dance in a diaper at the prom. Tori gets back at her when it's time to announce the Prom King and Queen. The vote had been rigged so Trina would win, but Tori claimed the winners were Jade and the diaper guy. This not only embarrasses Jade, but gets rid of her as the diaper guy picks her up and carries her off.
- Family Guy: Subverted. One episode had Chris being elected Homecoming King, much to everyone's surprise. Stewie and Brian suspect that the student body wants to prank Chris on homecoming night and that's why he was elected. However, after watching a local news segment, they realize the student body thought Chris was mentally handicapped and voted him Homecoming King to be nice.
- The Replacements: One episode had Todd and Reilly going to extreme lengths to try to win the position of class Treasurer. In the end, the two make amends. The episode ends with it being revealed that the school bully had rigged the vote so that Ichabod Cornelius Underpants (I. C. Underpants) won. It cuts to Ichabod, who complains that he wins all the time despite never running.
- Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated: The motive of the antagonist of "Where Walks Aphrodite", Amanda Smythe, was getting revenge on the citizens of Crystal Cove for electing her as prom queen in high school as a joke and then humiliating her by pulling a monster mask over her head when she was not as attractive as she is today. While Velma points out that Amanda is now considered beautiful, she responds by saying despite that fact being true, the scars from that incident ran deep.
- The Simpsons: The episode "E Pluribus Wiggum" had Springfield move up its primary in order to pass a bond to repair some burnt down fast food restaurants. As this put their primary as the first in the nation, prospective presidential candidates descended on the town to start campaigning there. Tired of the obnoxious pandering, the citizens of Springfield decide to write-in Ralph Wiggum for candidate. However, instead of realizing this is a protest vote, the news media treat Ralph as a serious contender for the White House.
- In one episode of South Park PETA forces South Park elementary to change their mascot so the kids are made to vote for the new one. Kyle decides to organize a write-in campaign for a joke mascot, but disagrees with Cartman over whether it should be a giant douche or a turd sandwich. The result is that both rally support for their preferred mascot and wind up tying, leading to a second election where those are the only two choices.
- In What's with Andy?, Andy plans on making the school election a living hell for his sister Jen, who is running for re-election. Andy pushes Jen's Love Interest Craig Bennett to the forefront, but when Jen learns to live with it, Andy decides to run himself with absolutely no success.