Responding to "None of the Above"
By Tom DeWeese
web posted July 7, 2008
A few months ago I wrote an article about an addition to the election system called "None of the Above" and I asked American Policy Center supporters if they would support it. The answers certainly told the tale of the frustration over our election process that produces candidates most of us don't care for.
First, I asked three specific questions: 1. Are you satisfied with your choices for president this year? Overwhelmingly, APC supporters answered NO. Only 3 out of 1000 responses said they were satisfied with our choices. There were a few undecideds. Of course, more than a hundred reminded me that Ron Paul is still running. I get the message!
The reason I didn't mention Ron Paul (whom I voted for in the Virginia primary and whom I have worked closely with for more than 10 years) is because I wanted to make a point that the major parties were offering some very unsavory candidates for us to choose from. Regardless of how badly you want Ron Paul, he is not going to be the Republican candidate this fall. Even though he is still officially running, even he will admit that he isn't going to be on the ticket.
There were also several who desperately admonished me to support John McCain out of terror that we will end up with one of those horrid Democrats unless we all pitch in to support McCain. Whether to support McCain or not is an issue for another article. It has nothing to do with the "None of the Above" issue.
The second question asked: Would you support an official alternative on the ballot which would allow you to reject candidates, forcing a new election with new choices? Again, the response was almost unanimous in support of the idea. However, the most often stated fear was that such a choice would throw elections to the Democrats. Apparently, APC supporters are convinced that Democrats are happy with their candidates and would vote in lock-step for them while only Republicans would split their vote with some choosing "None of the Above." One comment said, "Most Democrats would vote for Satan himself. Republicans would be split, handing Dems the victory." It may be of interest to these folks to learn that there is no difference in support for "None of the Above" between Democrats and Republicans.
And the third question: "If such a system were possible, would you support and encourage the American Policy Center to promote the implementation of that system?" Again, a huge majority of responders said yes. However, several thought the effort would be much too costly and that APC would be much better off spending its time and resources working on our core issues of property and privacy rights, national sovereignty and illegal immigration. I want to make it clear; APC never intended to organize the necessary state-by-state ballot drives it would take to implement "None of the Above." We are simply not equipped to do that. APC's role would be to spread the idea and for others to pick it up at the local and state level and run with it. We have already started that process by issuing articles to our media list and discussing the issue on the radio. I would not commit APC's limited funds to anything more. We aren't big enough. So, no need to worry.
Beyond the answers to these three questions, there were lots of comments provided on the subject. Many said they thought "None of the Above" was the "best idea" they had ever heard. "Fantastic idea. I believe it would work." "This is the most common sense idea the APC has come up with yet." My favorite positive response was "I have a better idea. How about Tom DeWeese on the ballot." Thanks just the same. I think I'll stick with what I'm doing.
On the other hand, there were many who expressed doubt in the idea. So many misunderstood the process necessary to get "None of the Above" on the ballot. Several said it would take a Constitutional Amendment. While it could be in the states, "None of the Above" status does not require a Federal Constitutional amendment. Ballot items are state and local issues.
The biggest misunderstanding was the idea that I was suggesting this for the 2008 presidential election. Perhaps that's my fault since I started the article by expressing dissatisfaction with the current presidential candidates. I was trying to make a point. This will be a long-term process and is primarily aimed at local, state and congressional candidates. While it should certainly be used in presidential elections as well, the real power comes from rejecting the lower level candidates.
Others said we should just run write-in campaigns or support third-party candidates. While both of these are options that many can and should follow, both take dedication, time and money to accomplish. With "None of the Above" on the ballot, no campaign is necessary. The choice is there for you if you don't like any other candidates offered. It gives you an automatic choice. It will not win in most elections - only those in which unacceptable candidates are offered.
Here is why I support "None of the Above:" It gives the people complete control. Re-do elections would be rare, but always a threat if the political power brokers try to ignore the electorate and force candidates down our throats - as they do now. We currently have no option as a response to candidates chosen by those who are loaded with money and political clout. We just have to take it and it's getting worse all the time.
The fear that Democrats will vote in lock step while Republicans split their vote is simply unfounded. Right now, legions of Hillary supporters are appalled at the prospects of Obama's nomination and would love to have an alternative. If the choice was provided, many of them would vote "None of the Above." Their votes combined with dissatisfied Republicans could throw the election to "None of the Above" and voters would reject these very unsatisfying choices. It only has to happen once for the major parties to be forced to make changes. Moreover, the strongest threat is to local, state and congressional candidates. It only takes a couple of "None of the Above" victories to see that the electorate is back in charge.
Finally, the fear that such re-do elections would cost too much, is again unfounded, given the fact that "None of the Above" victories would be rare. Yes, it would cost extra money. However, if it means getting a better candidate, isn't it worth it to hold a new election - especially considering how much a very bad candidate would cost us if he actually got into office? Yes, if "None of the Above" wins, the office remains vacant until it's filled. To set up another election and fill the spot would work exactly like the process provided in the Constitution when an incumbent dies or resigns and a special election is held. It's no different, except this time it would happen because of the will of the people.
Yes, getting "None of the Above" on the ballot in many states would mean that current elected officials would be agreeing to jeopardize their own jobs. Why would they do that? Only because we succeed in creating a strong movement of voters which demand it. No one is saying this will be an easy process. But such movements have succeeded before. For example, we could begin to force candidates to support the measure much like they now sign "no tax" pledges. In short, they would support it because they have no choice.
But all of that depends on the voters. Do you want to take back control or are you satisfied to have your choices made for you behind closed doors? Because that's what we have now. How's that working for you?
Tom DeWeese is the President of the American Policy Center and the Editor of The DeWeese Report.