July 15, 2013— -- Morris, the cat whose underground political candidacy won him headlines around the world, lapped up 12,000 votes in the election for mayor of Xalapa, Mexico, his handlers claimed on Monday.
The vote tally was nowhere near large enough to give this feline candidate the mayoral job. But it did place Morris fourth in a field of 11 candidates in the race to run Xalapa, population 420,000. Morris earned more votes than the candidate from Mexico's most influential left-wing party, the PRD.
The idea of running a cat for mayor was devised a couple months ago by two recent university graduates, who said that they did not identify with any of the city's human politicians.
On Facebook, the grads joked that Morris would rid the city of its corrupt political "rats" and said that voting for Morris would enable citizens to express their dissatisfaction with the city's rulers in an election that was already "a joke."
The cat's candidacy was hugely popular online, and it prompted disgruntled citizens elsewhere in Mexico to nominate more animals for office.
But Morris' campaign also generated political controversy, with some critics claiming that the pawed pol may have split the opposition vote in Xalapa, enabling Mexico's powerful ruling party, the PRI, to come out victorious.
Morris' handlers lashed out at these criticisms on Monday, in an oped published on the news site Animal Politico.
"Let's be realistic," Morris's campaign team wrote. "Who divided the vote? A simple cat, or the fragmented opposition?"
"If you combined the votes of [the top two opposition candidates], they would have easily had more votes than the PRI."
Critics are also questioning whether Morris actually secured the 12,000 votes that his handlers said he got.
Election officials in Xalapa did not allow the cat to officially register as a candidate (he is not human, after all) and said that any ballot in which someone wrote the cat's name would be considered an "invalid" vote and not be counted.
The votes that Morris supposedly got, are therefore, the votes that have been counted as "invalid" by officials, but of course there are numerous other reasons why votes can be determined to be invalid, like when someone ticks two candidates pictures.
To get their message across however, hundreds of Morris supporters took cell phone pictures of their ballots on election day, showing how they wrote in the cat's name.
Morris's campaign team thanked its supporters online, and promised that the famous cat would not disappear from politics. His Facebook page, in fact, now advocates for a series of animal rights laws in Mexico.
"We want to thank you," a banner on Morris' page reads. "The evolution of this project is just getting started."