Practical Solutions Government Elections and None of the Above

About a practical solution to the problem of voter apathy, giving them a choice of none of the above in government elections.



None of the Above

In more elections than I care to remember I have grumbled about the choice of candidates offered--frequently an incumbent I was convinced was corrupt against a challenger who was merely inept.

But I dutifully trudged to the polls every November and voted for the least worst candidate. Often I wished I had a choice, not just a chance to write in somebody's name, but a real choice.

The problem with write-in candidates is that they are never counted and reported. We have reams of statistics, though, on the vast numbers of potential voters who stay home.

They're a favorite topic of political pundits and editorial writers. They're dragged out every election year as evidence of voter apathy and the decline of democracy.

I wonder.

Maybe the 60% of American voters who stayed home last election were voting with their feet. Maybe they were tired of candidates who refused to discuss the issues and newspapers which would rather lecture voters on their duty to vote than cover the issues, or lack of them.

If you don't have a choice, why vote?

But suppose the voters did have a choice. Suppose we had an amendment to the Constitution that required every office on the ballot, from county clerk to president, to carry a space to vote "none of the above."

If the voters didn't like the choices offered by the major parties, they could simply vote "No."

Article II of the amendment would require election officials to count and report the no votes along with the votes gathered by each candidate.

But it would be Article III which would make the amendment an effective force for democracy. It would provide that if neither candidate out-polled the no votes, there would be a new election. And the candidates who were "defeated" could not run the second time around.

The parties would have to offer the voters new choices.

Maybe it wouldn't work; but maybe it would.

Voters who believed that the candidates weren't facing the issues, or that the choice was between Tweedledum and Tweedledee, would have an effective alternative.

Elections are expensive. Parties wouldn't want to lay out the money to go to the voters twice in the same year to win one office.

Ian McNett

Washington, D.C.

Source: Reprinted from Harper's Weekly (Dec. 15, 1975).

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