How Nevada Does Primaries Right

How Nevada Does Primaries Right

The nation is in the midst of primary season, that magical time of year (for political junkies) when the major parties choose their nominees for the general election. Primaries can be rough, and sometimes, leave the supporters of defeated candidates disgruntled or even downright bitter.

But what about those many millions of voters who aren’t card-carrying members of Team Red or Team Blue? They may look at the result of the major party primaries and think: “Are they serious…is this the best they can do?”

For those folks, the prospect of another general election pitting what they see as lesser evils against one another is depressing as all get out. Some may choose to sit this one out. Others will make a choice…and hope for the best.

A few will write in someone’s name – “Mickey Mouse” still gets plenty of votes these days.

But there should be another alternative. One that has some punch, that sends a message to the major parties to do better.

That alternative: “None of the Above.”

It’s more than a plotline from the 1985 Richard Pryor film. “Brewster’s Millions

In , it’s called “None of these candidates.” Nevada is the only state that allows voters to register their dislike for major party candidates in this way. And while the same law does not allow “none of these candidates” to win an election, the option can certainly expose a party’s weakness. Democrats learned the hard way in their 2014 gubernatorial primary, such as when “none of these candidates” finished first in the voting:

Nevada Democratic leaders acknowledged earlier this year that they had failed to recruit a credible candidate to face GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval in the fall. And on Tuesday, Silver State Democratic primary voters agreed, casting more votes for the state’s quirky “none of these candidates” option than any one of the eight actual humans on the ballot.

Has “none of these candidates” made the difference in an election? According to The Washington Post’s Sean Sullivan, “rarely.” But there have been a few tantalizing possibilities:

Most notable was 1998, when Sen. Harry Reid (D) defeated Republican John Ensign by just 400 votes. More than 8,000 voters selected “none” that year.

And there was the 2012 Senate race:

In 2012, Republican Dean Heller won a competitive U.S. Senate race by defeating Democrat Shelley Berkley with about 46% of the vote. Berkley garnered 45% — a difference of 12,000 votes.

In that race, one of the most closely watched in 2012, 45,000 Nevada voters ended up choosing “none of these candidates.”

None of the above, then, doesn’t favor either party – so the spoiler role is a non-starter. But what it does is offer voters a concise, concerted way to show the major parties not everyone is buying what they’re selling.

John Fund once wrote that NOTA might serve as a potential check on incumbents who don’t face any opponent in either a primary or the general election. Fund also wrote that a version of “none of the above” helped bring an end to communism in Poland:

In 1989, the Communists in Poland grudgingly allowed a semi-free parliamentary election; they thought they had rigged the game by guaranteeing that many of their candidates had no opponents. But they forgot that voters would be able to cross out the names of candidates they rejected.

This allowed voters to defeat even the sitting Polish prime minister and dozens of other Communist incumbents because these candidates didn’t get the required absolute majority of votes. “This device changed history, because it proved how far people despised the Communist rule,” trade-union leader Lech Walesa once told me. “It accelerated the entire decline of the Communists in Eastern Europe.”

Dismiss “none of the above” as a gimmick, or a spoiler if you wish. But it has demonstrated it can change world history for the better. Time to give “none of the above” a chance to make some history right here at home.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of American Liberty News.

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