“What if we add another ‘party’ to the ballot: ‘None of the Above’ alongside ‘Republican’ and ‘Democrat’?” asks political observer Deb Fitz.
It’s already the law in Nevada, Spain and Ukraine. It was tried in Russia – targeting abuse by power-brokers. For decades the Communist Party had controlled the ballot – allowing only its candidates. For decades, the USSR had proclaimed to the world that the Soviet people had free elections – but voters could either approve the Party choice or not vote.
In Iran’s most recent elections, the mullahs who run the country disqualified any candidate who threatened their reign. Thus, ballot choices included no reformers, no dissidents, no moderates.
When democracy came to Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union, voters targeted the party’s central control. They demanded the right to reject official candidates. Steven Lee Myers of the New York Times called the “None of the Above” ballot choice “the ultimate protest vote.”
Writing from the city of Ulyanovsk, Myers reported: “Here in this faded industrial city on the Volga, ‘Against All’ won. Twice. In the December parliamentary election, voters of District 181 threw out not only the incumbent, a retired general, but the rest of the pack as well.
In the subsequent election, “Against all,” won again.
“In December, two other parliamentary districts, in Sverdlovsk and St. Petersburg, voted ‘against all,’” reported Myers. “Ulyanovsk refused again to send anyone to Parliament. ‘Against all’ also won five of six runoffs for the regional legislature.
“Ulyanovsk's obstinacy has embarrassed local election officials,” noted Myers, “not to mention the spurned candidates, many of them prominent public figures. They included Vadim I. Orlov, the incumbent; the former Communist governor of the region; the chief doctor of the city children's hospital; and a handful of businessmen.”
Could “None of the Above” work here?
“I've been watching what is going on in Washington and I'm really disappointed,” writes Fitz. “I was so hoping that ‘change’ meant a real
commitment to ethics and morality. I hoped that The People's agenda might finally have some meaning. But it's business as usual in Washington -- back room deals making in exchange for votes or backing. With big business and big unions calling the shots, the will of The People hasn't got a chance.”
If “None of the Above” were on the ballot alongside “Mitt Romney” and “Barack Obama,” writes Fitz,“at last we would have an effective way to show our dissatisfaction.
“While polls show that only eight percent of Americans approve of the way Congress is doing its job, our politicians don’t seem to be getting the message. With my proposed constitutional amendment they would … loud and clear!”
None of the above -- the idea comes before state legislatures from time to time. It is predictably opposed by both the Republican and Democratic parties.
When it has gone to a vote in a number of states, including California, it has been vehemently opposed by the establishment and voted down. In November 2002, Oregon’s proposed Measure 21 would have required “None of the Above” to be an option when voting for state and local judges. It lost 526,450 to 668,256.