Nevada is one of the only states in the Union where “None of the Above” is an option on the presidential voting ballot. Several other states have initiatives under way to officially add “None of the Above” as an option at the presidential level, as they already allow it for minor local races. Throughout the nation, “None” is accepted as a write-in ballot choice.
For decades, such provisions have stood on the books without much comment from the candidates themselves – but not this year.
This year the debates are raging about the value of a vote for “None of the Above” after a group of Nevada Republicans sued the state to remove the “None of the Above” option from the ballot. Their lawsuit was filed June 8th, 2012, and the change would affect the 2012 races as well as all subsequent races in the state.
So what’s the big deal this year? Political pundits have been quick to point to the move as a way to prevent people from voting for “None of the Above” instead of voting for Romney. All the focus is on him, with analysts feeling that votes for a non-candidate will hurt the odds of a Romney victory.
Apparently it hasn’t crossed their minds that a vote for “None of the Above” is also a non-vote for Obama. However, since the lawsuit was brought by members of the Republican establishment in Nevada, the focus is more on the Republican side of the table. It’s assumed – rightly or wrongly – that the move is being backed by the national GOP organizers.
Regardless of whose smart idea the challenge was, the move has brought to the forefront a debate about the value of voting and what’s known as the “must hire” voting problem. The “must hire” situation is where voters have to pick someone to fill the office, even if no candidate is broadly acceptable. Most of the country is bound by “must hire” rules, running through expensive election proceedings even when candidates are running unopposed on the ballot. It’s how dead candidates or candidates who have withdrawn are sometimes elected as well – you have to vote for someone instead of leaving it blank, and so voters make what they perceive as the least-awful choice. Not exactly a fun side of democracy, that.
The lack of an option for a protest vote for no one also skews the perception of support for other parties. In states without a “None of the Above” option, voters who are dissatisfied with the overall candidate slate often vote for minority parties or outlying candidates as a form protest, giving a skewed view of the support for those groups. This is also often seen in international elections as well as U.S. elections, where voting blocks on the fringe get huge amounts of support in election cycles where the mainstream candidates aren’t popular or well loved.
With all this context, the commentary by the public has been insightful. Some are campaigning for additional options to be added to the ballots, like “Just Shoot Them All” or “Bar All Candidates From Office.” Local officials seem to also support retaining the current category as a means to prevent what’s called “the Mickey Mouse option” where voters write in fictional candidates as a means of expressing disapproval.
Many commentators from the general public also feel that the “None of the Above” vote is a chance to let winning candidates know that they aren’t heading into office with any sort of popular opinion backing or broad mandate of support – they’ve squeaked into office on technicalities and they’ll be thrown out at the first sign of a suitable replacement. It’s a means of keeping candidate in line a bit while they’re in office, since they have tangible, quantifiable data indicating that many people prefer anyone else to them.
What will happen in Nevada? At the moment, the case is up in the air. No one is sure if it will ultimately be thrown out or if there will be a ruling before the final election ballots are printed for November. Still, candidates are worried about how it would look if a non-candidate beat them out for office, and the public can enjoy the spectacle of big-deal politicians frightened to be trumped by “None of the Above.”
©2012 Off the Grid News