Nevada voters can reject of all them by voting for “None of These Candidates.” That option, on the Silver State’s ballot in federal and statewide elections since 1975, doesn’t have real teeth because the human being with the most votes still wins. But it’s a powerful protest mechanism, and experts say it has influenced the results of several elections in the past four decades.
Nothing like that exists on a national level, of course. But why not? This year’s lesser-of-evils campaign is precisely the time to consider adding “None of the Above” to our ballots – but not just symbolically as in Nevada. Instead, if “None” wins, a new election should be held – in which anybody can run except the original candidates.
Such a provision could transform American presidential campaigns in a healthy way. Right now, Hillary Clinton is certain lots of independents and even Republicans who dislike her see no other real choices. She doesn’t have to really compete for the votes of people like, well, me, because she knows we’ll do what it takes (including voting for an unappealing candidate like her) to keep the country out of the hands of a truly dangerous person like Trump.
But if Clinton understood that turned-off voters could do more than just show their displeasure (by voting for Johnson or staying home) but actually hit a “do-over” button, she’d have a different mental calculus on how to articulate her positions and present her case.
Trump doesn’t seem to modulate his strategy based on voter response, but at least his campaign apparatus would adjust the way it appeals to the nation if voters could reject both party’s standard-bearers.
Even better, nationally unappealing presidential candidates may not even be nominated in a “None” system. Right now, for example, Democrat primary voters know that whomever they choose will be the only left-leaning major candidate on the fall ballot. So they know people who lean left will almost certainly vote for him or her and they can thus pick someone with less mainstream appeal (ideologically or personally). With “None” on the ballot, they risk left-leaning votes splitting between the Democrat candidate and nobody at all, thus letting the Republican rise to the top.
Right now, “None of these candidates” is polling at about 2 percent in Nevada, and in fact it has never won more than 1.9 percent in a presidential election. But Nevada voters know that the option is only a sterile protest. Although “None” has won four (primary) elections, the flesh-and-blood candidate with the most votes was nonetheless declared the victor each time. Imagine if voters knew their “None” vote for president could lead to a new choice with (hopefully) better candidates?
Experts at voting law would have to help design a fully constitutional “None” system, but the American people are in charge of their Constitution – and if we have to amend it to avoid future Two Thousand Sixteens, so be it.
Objections to None of the Above systems often focus on the expense of new campaigns and elections. But what could matter more than electing a president most (or nearly most) Americans actually want? The nation will have already discussed and debated national issues, so the questions still on the table will be about the character, talent, experience, and temperament of the replacement presidential candidates. Perhaps a one-month primary followed by a one-month general election would be enough time for America to revote. And yes, “None” should be still on the ballot in the second election, because selecting an acceptable president is important enough to do as many times as necessary to get it right.
After such an awful political season, many Americans have begun to feel the electoral system has spun out of our control. But… Democracy. We are always in control, and we can take back the national reins post-2016 with a Big Fix that could make more Americans than ever feel like the president is our president.
David Benkof is Senior Political Analyst for the Daily Caller. Follow him on Twitter (@DavidBenkof) or E-mail him at DavidBenkof@gmail.com.