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A Giant Step Backward for Voters in Nevada and Beyond

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On August 23rd, in one of the most egregious judicial overreaches of the year, U.S. district Judge Robert Jones found that a law that's been in use since 1976 allowing Nevadans to vote "none of the above" for state and federal candidates to be unconstitutional. Judge Jones claimed the law to be unconstitutional because "none" cannot win an election and since it cannot win, it shouldn't be counted. The overturning of this law was pursued and financed by the Republican National Convention, primarily out of fear of very close races in both the presidential and US senate races in November. The RNC released a statement saying, "We're glad we were successful in our efforts to bring clarity to the Nevada presidential election ballot."

The attorney arguing against the "none" option, Michael Morley, contended that the Voting Rights Act was intended to make sure that people's votes were counted and that a vote for "none" ran counter to laws made to protect those very same rights. Arguing on behalf of the secretary of state, deputy attorney general, Kevin Benson maintained that voters "always have the right to not vote" and that voting for "none" is tantamount to not voting in a specific contest or simply not voting at all. Benson stated, "You're free to stay home on the couch" as those non votes would equally not count. Benson also articulated that voting "none" was equivalent to a vote of protest and was a way to articulate to politicians that they are not satisfied with their current choices. However Judge Jones did not agree, decreeing "I don't buy your arguments that it isn't a vote, because it is a vote."

Though it may still be a vote, Judge Jones' rationale is absurd. The whole point of the "none of the above" option was to make sure that state and federal candidates understood they couldn't simply silence the masses of voters that would love nothing more than to cast a ballot for a candidate they found to be viable. In fact the "none of the above" option was added to the Nevada ballot to counteract the growing feeling of futility among voters created by the tumultuous Watergate scandal of the early 1970s. If there was ever a similar feeling of voter disenfranchisement in the past 35 years it is certainly now. The House and Senate are currently polling at record-low approval ratings while President Obama and presumptive GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney aren't exactly enthralling voters either.

A vote for "none of the above" is an incredibly vital instrument for residents of Nevada and should be considered by other states. A "none of the above" voting option allows Americans to articulate their disappointment with individual candidates and political parties while still being actively involved in the political process. It allows citizens to articulate to potential candidates and parties that if you're worth voting for, we will be there for you. States should be expanding this option, not eliminating it. Judge Jones decision not only impedes the evolution of the political system in America, it also makes it increasing difficult for citizens to illustrate their dissatisfaction with the powers that be. Without the ability to demonstrate transparent dissatisfaction with the current list of candidates and parties, how can we encourage others that may not conform to either of the two major parties to run for office? Judge Jones' in essence told the people of Nevada to love it or leave it, but don't think about fixing it. Is that really the path America wants to pursue?

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