Voting None of the Above

   If you’ve ever stayed home on Election Day disgusted with your choices, then this new proposal is for you. Or if you’ve ever idled in the voting booth wanting to scribble drawings of the male reproductive system all over the ballot, then the measure under consideration on Beacon Hill is definitely for you.


Massachusetts voters repulsed by the limited selection on Election Day may have an option other than smacking the voting machine: "None of the Above." A proposal put forth in the State House last week by Senator Robert A. O'Leary and Representative Cleon H. Turner would allow voters to opt for "None of the Above; For a New Election" on local and state races, though not federal races. If "NOTA" garners the most votes, another election would be held in 60 to 80 days with different candidates. Turner called the proposal a "novel idea" but lamented that it has "gained little traction on Beacon Hill."


If by "novel idea" Turner meant that the proposal is new or original, he'd be wrong. If he meant that it's the first time that political parties or institutions debated passing a "NOTA" binding resolution on ballots, well, he'd still be wrong.


In Spain, France and Ukraine it is standard procedure to list "NOTA" (or a close variant) on all ballots. Nevada also offers a non-binding "NOTA" option on all ballots, but because of its non-binding status, the candidate with the most votes still assumes office. The Green Party and the Libertarian Party both include "NOTA" on their ballots and Nader consistently runs as a “NOTA” candidate. If “NOTA” wins the majority of the votes in Libertarian or Green party elections, new elections are held.


The Committee Against Mediocrity in Politics (CAMP) has argued for adding a 28th amendment to the Constitution that would mandate the inclusion of a “NOTA” option for all elections: "In order to combat the mediocrity which seems to reign in our political candidates, CAMP is calling for Amendment XXVIII to the United States Constitution. This Amendment would add "None of the Above" to all federal election ballots, allowing voters to choose not to vote for a ballot of mediocre candidates."


In 2005, David Gatchell legally changed his middle name from "Leroy" to "None of the Above." David ‘None of the Above’ Gatchell ran unsuccessfully for governor of Tennessee in 2000 and for the U.S. Senate in 2006; his dog, Pugsly, managed his campaign. Unfortunately, state election commissioners unanimously banned his middle name from appearing on the ballot, claiming it would "cause confusion among voters." Pugsly and David disagreed but lost the appeal when the court decided his middle name was “issue-oriented.”


The “NOTA” legislation isn't exactly a fool-proof solution. It raises the thorny issue of whether or not to allow candidates to run again in the subsequent election. And it threatens to lengthen an already exhausting election season. Yet “NOTA” does present voters a new manner of registering their disgust with the candidates, one that can be tallied and can’t be ignored. Over time politicians may learn to avoid personal attacks and scandal mongering as they realize that they are not just vying to be crowned "the lesser of two evils." Maybe politicians will finally be held accountable to the people. And maybe our two-party system will finally receive the jolt it needs and jar voters out of their disillusionment! Or maybe “NOTA” will receive 0.2 percent of the total vote like ‘None of the Above’ Gatchell in 2006.


Even if the above is purely wishful thinking, at least voters won’t face the same dilemma as Marge and Homer in The Simpson’s Treehouse of Horror episode where Kang and Kodos impersonate Bob Dole and Bill Clinton in the 1996 election. When Homer reveals the candidates as evil aliens bent on ruling the Earth, Kodos laughs and declares, “What are you going to do, throw your vote away on a third-party candidate?” Not anymore, Kodos. Not if this “novel idea” gains a little more traction on Beacon Hill. Soon we’ll get the last laugh as we throw our vote away on “NOTA.”


Homer to Marge after Kang wins the presidency and enslaves the Earth: Don't blame me. I voted for Kodos!

--David Mashburn

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