Let’s be honest: If you are voting for Mitt Romney in November, there’s a pretty good chance that you really are voting for "not President Obama." And if you are voting for Obama, there’s a pretty good chance that you are voting for "not Romney."
But what if the statement you really want to make is, "not either one"? If that’s the case, you do have choices. You can vote for the Green Party’s Jill Stein or the Libertarians’ Gary Johnson. There’s also someone on the ballot named Peta Lindsay with the Socialism and Liberation Party.
Problem is, if you’re a voter looking for a practical problem-solver, none of those parties fit. Those parties want to change the country significantly – the Greens by instituting nationalized health care and strict environmental regulations; the Libertarians by shrinking government far beyond the point most Americans would tolerate. As for Peta Lindsay, I don’t want to be socialized or liberated.
I checked with my county clerk’s office to see if I could write in somebody else’s name. Yes, I was told, but unless that person has jumped through the hoops and is officially running as a candidate, the machine won’t recognize the name and the vote won’t be counted.
So in Arkansas, that leaves either holding one’s nose and casting a ballot for the least worst choice, or not voting in the presidential race at all.
But if I lived in Nevada, I’d have another choice: None of the above.
Nevada, in fact, is the only state that offers voters that option, as it has been doing since 1976. By selecting "none of the above," voters there can register their lack of support for any candidate in a more visible and concrete way than if they didn’t vote at all.
If "none of the above" were to "win" the election, then the candidate who received the second number of votes would be elected. That’s never happened, but even a sizable minority of "none of the above" votes would send an unmistakable message of voter dissatisfaction to the major parties and their candidates.
This past week, Nevada’s "none of the above" option survived a court challenge by the Republican National Committee, which believes the choice could take away votes from Republican candidates. The GOP’s lawsuit was predictable: The establishment almost always opposes real reforms, like term limits or including third party candidates in presidential debates, that threaten the way it does business.
Opponents also say a "none of the above" option favors incumbents because disgruntled voters select it rather than a challenger. That’s also predictable. We’re always told a reform will help the wrong team.
The day after the election, either Obama or Romney is headed to the Oval Office for four years, but when they enter the voting booth on Nov. 6, they will have no more voice in our democracy, for five minutes, than you or I. One little vote won’t count for much, but it’s an opportunity for all Americans to make their own statement. Giving Arkansas voters no other option besides the five candidates on this year’s ballot means their statement can be misinterpreted as support for a particular candidate, when in reality they just oppose the other four more.
As for not voting at all in the presidential race, well, that statement can be misinterpreted as well – as meaning that the voter doesn’t care.
A lot of voters do care. They just can’t support any of the choices they are given. They should have a place on the ballot that lets them say so.
Steve Brawner is an independent journalist in Arkansas. His blog — Independent Arkansas — is linked at Arkansasnews.com. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org