Ben Hartnell won't be the next president of the United States, but more than 500 people in Ohio thought he should be.

Ben Hartnell won't be the next president of the United States, but more than 500 people in Ohio thought he should be.

The 39-year-old Westerville North High School history teacher and area resident began his presidential campaign as a learning experience for his students. By running a real, certified write-in campaign, he would not only teach them about the political process, but show them how difficult a truly grassroots campaign can be.

And after months of hard work -- including working his way onto the certified write-in candidates list of more than 20 states -- Hartnell's campaign ended with him collecting 547 votes in Ohio, according to the Ohio Secretary of State's office.

The votes gave Hartnell an eighth-place finish in Ohio, beating 15 other certified write-in candidates in the process.

"I think it's a testament to the climate we found ourselves in this election season, where people really were legitimately looking for another candidate or another camp," Hartnell said. "They still wanted to do their democratic duty and cast a vote but didn't want to do the Mickey Mouse thing; they wanted to cast a vote that would count."

Hartnell said he isn't sure how he performed in the other states where he managed to make it onto the certified write-in candidate lists. Many states don't break out the votes received by individual write-in candidates like Ohio does, which could make the process of determining Hartnell's votes a long one.

But that doesn't mean he hasn't seen his influence spread further than Ohio.

He had a woman contact him from South Carolina, but had to tell her that South Carolina is one of nine states that doesn't allow write-ins. He said the woman repeatedly called her senator and representative until they promised the state's judiciary committee would discuss repealing the write-in ban next year.

"I figured people who knew me here in Westerville or some of the parents of the kids in my class might vote for me," he said. "It was amazing to see it go bigger than we ever set out for this little teachable moment."

Perhaps the most bittersweet part of Hartnell's campaign was how much his 6-year-old son, Fraser, bought into the chance his father could be president.

In theoretically explaining how he could win Ohio, Hartnell would make maps that left Ohio gray while other states were blue or red. When Fraser saw all the states that couldn't be called on election night, he got his hopes up.

"He saw all these states in gray because they hadn't been called yet and said 'Look at all these gray states!' and I had to break it to him," Hartnell said.

After an exhausting campaign process -- he said he "doesn't know how these career politicians pull this stuff off" -- Hartnell is ready for some rest. But he's not ruling out another run in 2020, and has aspirations to get his name on the ballot as a registered independent or as part of a party.

"There are a lot of people who said, 'Hey, we'll support you in 2020,' " he said. "And if we do run, I want to get an endorsement from either an independent party or put our own on the ballot. If our name had been on the ballot, I think we would have gotten drastically more votes."