Tuesday, November 3, 2009

None of the Above

On the recent elections posting I mentioned, perhaps somewhat tongue in cheek, that I wish there would be a line on the ballot that says "none of the above." Quite a few people have told me that they would welcome such a line. Not voting doesn't seem to send the right message and neither does voting against someone instead of truly for someone else.

What might be the result of such a line being present on the ballot? For one thing, it might cause those who are running to have to take a closer look at what they say they stand for and at what they say they would do if elected. For another, we might get better candidates from the get go, since they would have in mind that if they don't present something the voters want, the voters have an option. Parties might have to vet their candidates better. In addition, even if one person won an election, if sufficient numbers of people voted "none of the above" that person would not be able to falsely claim that he/she has the mandate of the people. Someone mentioned this morning that all it would take would be one million signatures on a petition to get the line on the ballot. If democracy is about having choices, about having all choices, then "none of the above" is definitely a choice.

So let's take a little vote here. Would you sign a petition to have "none of the above" put on our ballots? Why? What benefit would you perceive could result from this?

Addendum to original posting: this is hardly a new idea it would appear. As Dave points on in the comments, Nevada already has a NOTA law on the books. For more info see http://nota.org/aboutvnota.htm


Anonymous said...

Sorry Prof, but I don't think that sends a message. Does "none of the above" mean you want someone more to the right? more to the left? Taller? Shorter?

This is just a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing. Just think if the tens of thousands of hours that you would have people spend to get the million signatures were put to constructive use?

Something more positive would be to have a write in option if you don't already have that in NY. That way people can organize to vote for someone who they think is right for the job if you don't like any of the official candidates.

Anonymous said...

This reminds me when my mother would give us a choice of what to have for lunch, such as tuna or grilled cheese. If I said "none of the above," she would say "fine, you'll go hungry." Often life presents us with two non-preferred choices. Sometimes saying "neither," means you will go hungry. Would you prefer a monarchy or a dictatorship with no choice? Would you prefer the chaos of Israeli politics with 10,000 choices and lots of ugly deals being cut letting minorities have disporportionate power? How about Somalia where people vote with their guns?

NonymousG said...

it's unnecessary, is people deliberately spoil their ballot sheets by submitting all empty or all checked boxes. spoiled votes are form of protest and these are recorded.

Anonymous said...

N: I doubt those spoiled votes accomplish anything, other than perhaps to make the spoilers feel better for a minute.

Anonymous said...

There's a big difference between choosing a candidate who will govern and choosing a sandwich. That's like saying if my choice is Stalin or Castro, too bad.

You are limited in your options because as a child you don't live in a participatory democracy--your mom's your dictator (and anyone who thinks otherwise is kidding themselves).

The current two-party system is broken (sorry, but a write-in vote is basically a useless one when you're dealing with an immense electorate) in that it so strongly favors the whims of the two major parties that getting someone elected outside of their narrow constraints is nearly impossible. By voting "none of the above," you are in fact exercising your right to be presented with candidates that might actually govern for the people. What a democratic thought.

Anonymous said...

There is nothing that prevents people from starting a third party if you don't like the two-party system. Sure, it takes money and time and other like-minded people, but all movements start small.

Voting "none of the above" does nothing to create other options. One of the two candidates will still win.

Dave said...

Your soon-to-be-home of Nevada has "None of the Above" on the ballot.

It explicitly has no effect on the outcome, but it is there as a protest vote.

Michael Kopinsky said...

How is "none of the above" different from "Abstain"?