Former coal executive Don Blankenship, who went to prison for his role in the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster in West Virginia, drew about 55,000 votes Tuesday as a third-party candidate for president, including thousands of votes in closely contested states. 

While not a significant amount in comparison to the more than 140 million Americans who cast a ballot in Tuesday’s record-breaking election, the Constitution Party nominee drew thousands of votes in Michigan and Wisconsin, two swing states that have been called for Democrat Joe Biden with razor thin margins. 

In Michigan, Blankenship drew 7,301 votes, according to the New York Times. Just over 5,200 Wisconsinites cast their ballot for Blankenship. Biden won Wisconsin by roughly 20,000 votes.

The coal baron did not appear on the ballot in West Virginia, Kentucky or Ohio. However, according to the Constitution Party website, Blankenship was on the ballot in 21 states including some with tight races, such as Nevada, North Carolina and Florida. 

Blankenship pitched himself as an alternative to the country’s two-party system. His platform billed him as a “third way.” 

This was not Blankenship’s first foray into politics. In 2018, he lost a three-way Republican primary for a U.S. Senate seat in West Virginia.

Twenty-nine men died in the Upper Big Branch Mine explosion in April, 2010. Blankenship served a one-year prison sentence for conspiring to violate federal mine safety standards. 

Earlier this year a federal judge denied his request to overturn the conviction.

Based at WVPB in Morgantown, WV, Brittany Patterson covers all things energy and environment.