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‘None of the Above’ may be our only real option on the ballots

By DOUG THOMPSON - A Capitol Hill Blue Commentary
September 20, 2013

Is this our best option?

Is this our best option?

More and more, voters face the need for a real alternative to the names on the ballot in most elections.

At moment, the alternative they need most is, sadly,  “none of the above.”

This is a time when voters need the chance to send a message to all political sides of the equation that no candidate whose name appears on the voting screen deserves a vote for election or re-election.

As mid-term elections approach next year and a new President, of some sort, will be elected in 2016, voters are faced with the very real possibility that no candidate on the ballot for Congress or the Presidency will be worthy of support or votes.

In Virginia, where I live and vote, the need for “none of the above” stares all of us in the face in this November’s governor’s face.

When I head over to to the voting precinct on that Tuesday morning in November, I’m not sure if I will see a single name on the ballot worthy of a vote in the governor’s race.  It means holding your nose and casting a vote because no voting is not a real option in a democracy.

Of course, having “none of the above” on the ballot only works if the law allows a a majority of “none of the above” to not allow election or re-election of anyone on the ballot. If “none of above,” for example, got more votes than an unopposed person on the ballot, then no one is elected and — ideally — a new election would have to be held with new candidates.

Unfortunately, “None of the Above” is not offered on the Virginia ballot or in in 48 other states of the nation.  Only Nevada has such an option and that option is hardly ideal.  That state offers “none of these candidates” as a vote option but even if that option gets the most votes, the winner is the actual candidate who gets the most votes.

In 1976, “none of these candidates” received 16,097 votes — far more than any candidate — in a Republican primary for Nevada’s at-large Congressional seat.  The victory, however, went to Walden Earhart, who got 9,831 votes, good enough for second place but still first among the candidates.  Earhart then lost to the Democrat Jim Santini in the general election.

However, “none of these candidates” can be a “spoiler” in the race.  In 1998, Harry Reid held on to his Senate season by beating Republican challenger John Ensign by just 428 votes.  “None of these candidates” received 8,125 votes in that election.

“None of these candidates” on the ballot scared Republicans so much that they filed a lawsuit in federal court in 2012 to try and have the ballot option declared unconstitutional.  The Republican National Committee was afraid the ballot option would cost Presidential candidate Mitt Romney a chance to win that state.  The case went back and forth in lower courts before a federal appeals court tossed it out.  Incumbent President Barack Obama beat Romney by more than 60,000 votes.  “None of these candidates” received 5,570 votes.

In Virginia this year, “none of the above” is not an option.  It never is and most likely never will be. In the governor’s race the choice is between Ken Cuccinelli, the current Republican attorney general with a questionable record on ethics, honesty and the law; Terry McAuliffe, a Democratic businessman who once rain the party’s national committee but has never held a public elected office and a libertarian candidate with no real record on anything .

Two incumbent county supervisors are up for re-election.  Neither are opposed even though a number of citizens have expressed concern and disgust over recent actions of the board that runs the county.

In 1964, Barry Goldwater ran unsuccessfully for the Presidency with the campaign slogan: “A Choice, Not an Echo.”

In Virginia this year, the overall campaign theme is just the opposite:  “An echo, not a choice.”

In other words:  None of the above.

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One Response to ‘None of the Above’ may be our only real option on the ballots

  1. beachshoe

    September 20, 2013 at 9:35 am

    The local, state and federal elections of the last 20 years or so have all been a choice of the lesser of two evils. None of the above should be mandatory in all 50 states and, as you point out, should lead to all new candidates if None of the above receives the most votes. But I suspect the highly over-rated two party system has it rigged exactly the way they want it.