March 2, 2009

Voting for "None of the Above"

DID YOU ever get inside the voting booth and find yourself staring at a particular contest wondering who to vote for? Maybe you skipped that race, maybe you selected a candidate that you really didn't know anything about or didn't particularly like?

I know it happens because I get asked about that kind of situation most every time I speak in public - "why can't we have a none of the above option on the ballot?"

The simple answer is because there is no provision for such an option under the California Elections law. A number of political parties and organizations, however, follow this practice. Russia had that option on its ballots but abolished it in 2006. Many student unions in England follow a similar procedure and some American states - Wyoming, Colorado, Ohio, Michigan and Arizona are considering None of the Above (NOTA) legislation. One state, Nevada, allows for a NOTA vote as does the Green Party of California.
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How would having a "none of the above" ballot option change politics?
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The first law implementing a binding NOTA ballot option was introduced in Massachusetts in 2007. In March 2000, California voters soundly defeated Proposition 23 which would have provided that voters could vote for "none of the above," but such votes would not be counted in determining who won an election.

A non-partisan organization "Voters for None of The Above" has been conducting a campaign to include NOTA as a legitimate ballot option. They say that "All legitimate consent requires the ability to withhold consent therefore, the legitimate consent of voters requires they be able to withhold their consent in an election to office." It is argued that the "None of The Above" option allows voters to send a message that they want change in the quality of candidates.

On Facebook there about ten groups related to NOTA but none of them have very many members - membership numbers range from two to a couple dozen.

One of the most interesting questions about NOTA is what happens if the NOTA ballot option gets the highest number of votes? One option would be for the real candidate who secures the highest number of votes after NOTA can be declared elected. The second option would involve conducting another election with new candidates.

How would that change politics?


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