We need NOTA, now

“None of the Above” voting has issues to resolve, but the current system has many problems.

As a voter, would you like to express your displeasure with the choices on your ballot? Are you tired of voting for the lesser of two evils? Would you like to have a reason to go to the polls even though it seems the contests are already settled?

If so, then NOTA, or “None of the Above,” may appeal to you. In this system, candidates for offices are listed on your ballot. Then, an additional choice is added: “None of the Above.”

Politicians don’t like “None of the Above.” Appearing on WichitaLiberty.TV recently, John Fund told of how a politician worried that he might lose to an empty chair, meaning that “None of the Above” received more votes. Fund retorted that would be true only if the chair was better.

But what would we do if “None of the Above” won the election, having received more votes than any other candidate?

Would the second-place candidate be declared the winner and take office? In this case, the “None of the Above” vote is reduced to an advisory, indicating widespread dissatisfaction with the candidates.

Or, would the election be declared to have no winner? Then, would a new election with different (or same) candidates ordered? This would be disruptive and have the cost of holding a new election. But this is better than electing someone who can’t garner more votes than “None of the Above.”

There is an organization promoting “None of the Above” as a choice for voters. As part of its argument, it states:

“None of the above” voters often decide to stay home instead of voting on election day. Others encourage this and suggest that it’s the way you show political disapproval in our country. This is both misguided and politically offensive. Non-voting happens for many reasons — political apathy, for example. But dissatisfaction is NOT apathy. It may in fact be the exact opposite. To suggest that dissatisfied voters should stay home and not vote hides the voice of protest. It is also tantamount to disenfranchisement.

Finally, adding a NOTA option to ballots can fill an important role in maintaining a peaceful political order. At the moment, dissatisfaction is forced out of the regular political process. It hides in the shadows, uncounted and unrecognized, masquerading as non-voting or as a vote for a “lesser of two evils” candidate. Or maybe it doesn’t hide at all. Instead it boils up in protest and the potential for violence. Providing a NOTA option can’t cure unrest, but it can provide official recognition for dissatisfaction. And when dissent has been made visible, the political establishment will be unable to deny its existence.

Voice of protest. That’s important. Often I’ve refrained from voting for any listed candidates because I felt none were worthy to hold office. It’s my own little way of protesting. In election lingo this is called an “undervote” and has little meaning, because people undervote for many reasons. But voting for “None of the above” gives voters a meaningful choice in instances like this.

Voting for the lesser of two evils is a choice we often face as voters. In the upcoming race for Wichita school board, there is one contest between a thoroughly despicable incumbent and a challenger whose ideology is distinctly Marxist. Who to vote for in this instance? “None of the above” would be a satisfying — and correct — choice. Voting for “None of the Above” sends a message that neither candidate is acceptable. Instead of conceding their votes to the listed candidates, voters have a meaningful choice.

On the same day Wichitans will select three city council members. There are two candidates in each district. In one district, only one candidate is actively campaigning. In the other two, there are large imbalances in fundraising. “None of the above” works in these cases, too.

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