Looking at NOTA a little differently.
On a personal note, this election cycle has left me as uninterested as I have ever been in who wins the day in far too many races. Try as I might, looking for the half full glass choice escapes any reasonable satisfactory result. Even by leaving a selection blank, it seems as if we cannot do enough to record our dissatisfaction with the choices made available to us. In fact, In 1980, the Canadian rock band Rush, reminded us
“If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice”
But even that ‘choice’ eludes us as an effective solution.
Local (Northern Michigan) writer Tom Kachadurian offers some thoughts worth considering.
For an editorial that may or may not be published, he writes:
None of the Above
By Thomas Kachadurian
We are deep in the political season. Unfortunately for all of us the reporting on the upcoming political choices has morphed into playoff coverage for a sporting event. But unlike sporting events, the election of our political decision makers will impact each of our lives. When the Tigers tanked many of us were crushed, but we got up the next morning, went to work, and our lives were unchanged. The same cannot be said for even the election of local political leaders. The people who take those positions have the power to change our taxes, regulate and change how we get our healthcare, and even decide what gets allowed in our neighborhoods. Yet we are faced with making these selections based on the thinnest of data.
Like it or not we are getting flooded with election information in our mailboxes, across our landscape, and for those who still have land lines, every time the phone rings. But those political messages completely lack content. Every candidate is “working hard for us.” They are “making tough choices.” They “support our Northern Michigan values,” and are “fighting to protect our children.” Which means what? It appears as if the candidates, in their own marketing materials, go out of their way to not tell us their specific positions on any issues.
The only detailed information we do get is on how horrible their opponents are, and those claims are mostly that those opponents are mean to puppies and children. These communications don’t tell us how they have voted or will vote on issues. They don’t tell us how their opponents differ specifically on those issues. They want us to vote for them because the have good hair, and a confident smile. We hear this: “Blah, blah, blah. Vote for me.”
We can complain all we want about the hollow political information, but in the end, one of two candidates will get the job. It doesn’t matter if one promises free lollipops and the other offers balloons. Even if we know nothing else about the candidates, one of them will be sworn in next January. The problem is our system that assures someone must be elected to each position.
We need a new option. We need to have the choice to reject both candidates. If we don’t hear a good case for putting a person into a position, we need the option of leaving the position open until we find the right candidate. We do this in every other facet of our lives. Boards don’t select a new director because it’s the first Tuesday in November. If they don’t find someone to meet all the job requirement they keep looking. We can stay single until we find the person we want to marry. We don’t even have to buy a watermelon if we don’t like the way it thumps. But in November politicians get jobs.
There are a few solutions. The easy way: on every ballot, in each category we would have the None of the Above choice. If None of the Above wins the position stays open.
A more complicated, but perhaps statistically more valid choice: no candidate gets a position unless they receive an affirmative percentage of the registered voters. By simply staying home, or leaving one category blank, voters would be making the None of the Above choice. We would have to tweak the percentage, because the obvious 50% requirement would probably leave us without a government at all. It’s rare that any candidate gets more than 35% of the registered voters. But if candidates had to work to get positive action the whole political landscape would change.
Here’s how it might work. If there were two candidates they would have to receive the highest percentage of all possible, registered voters. If candidate A gets 31% of registered voters, and candidate B gets 33% of the registered voters, there would be 36% of the votes uncast. In this case both candidates would lose. If the community wanted representation, they could hold another election and find new candidates to run. In a race where there was only one candidate, that candidate would not automatically win. He or she would still need to get 51% of the voters to approve them or they would not get the job.
This idea has the added benefit of making bond issues, millage requests, and law changes much harder to enact. A school board wouldn’t be able to get a millage through by rallying their 10% base and hoping everyone else stays home. If we required even a 40% affirmative YES of registered voters for any proposal to pass we would not have most of the charges on our tax bills. Would we even have a drain commissioner if it weren’t filled by default? It would force politicians to make us vote for them, not choose them as the lesser of two evils. It might also demonstrate how much the voting public completely rejects the political class altogether.
Politicians like to cry out that we cannot disenfranchise voters. This modest proposal would empower everyone. Once you register to vote you are accounted for. If you just stay home you assert your choice, None of the Above.
Willing to take suggestions how we might make this happen.