According to an Associated Press report, a federal judge sitting in Reno has ruled that the Nevada ballot option to choose “none of these candidates” in certain races is unconstitutional. The ruling means the “none” option will not appear on the November ballot.
U.S. District Court Judge Robert C. Jones held that because “none” could not win an election, the selection disenfranchises voters. (If “none” gets the most votes in any particular contest, the highest vote-getting natural person wins.)
But the real issue here seems to be Republican worries that supporters of Texas Congressman Ron Paul, who have taken over the Clark County Republican Party and the Nevada Republican Party, would use “none of these candidates” to signal their dissatisfaction with presumptive nominee Mitt Romney. Local Republicans have said they will support their party’s nominee, but they’d prefer a candidate with more solid conservative credentials.
Jones is correct in ruling that the practical effect of a vote for “none” is disenfranchisement, inasmuch as a vote cast in an election is not counted toward a meaningful result. But where I think he may have erred is the fact that a voter chooses “none” just as surely as choosing “Obama” or “Romney.” The choosing of an alternative, even the alternative of showing up to the polls only to cast a null vote by design, is nevertheless a choice.
And it’s a much more meaningful choice than, say, staying home and not voting at all. By choosing “none,” a voter is telling the candidates that he or she took the time to register to vote, to come to the polls and to send a message that neither the Democrat nor the Republican (or any of the third party choices) met with their approval. In other words: Get better candidates, and you will get better buy in.
This is nowhere more true than with supporters of Paul. Although he did surprisingly well in collecting delegates, he does not have any chance of winning the nomination. Therefore, Republicans who are inclined toward radically shrinking the federal government (not just budget cuts, but the elimination of entire cabinet departments), of ensuring a solid money supply (starting with a full audit of the Federal Reserve System), ending the war on drugs and increasing personal liberty have few options. They can vote for Romney, knowing he doesn’t share their deeply held beliefs. They can abandon their party of choice and vote for the Libertarian candidate (another legitimate protest vote). They can simply stay home, or skip voting in that race.
Or they could vote for “none.” Or at least they could have, until the Republicans sued in federal court to remove that option.
Secretary of State Ross Miller is appealing the ruling. Said Miller in a statement today:
“We can’t discuss the merits of the ruling, but we’re planning an immediate and expedited appeal to protect the long-standing public interest of the ‘none of these candidates’ option.”