Legislation implementing Voter Consent with a binding "None of the Above" (NOTA) on the ballot, allowing voters to reject all candidates for an office and to call for a new election with new candidates to fill the office. In all elections for office (not primaries), where more votes are cast for NOTA than for any candidate, no one is elected to the office, and a First NOTA Election is held, not less than 60 days and not more that 90 days after the prior election, to fill those offices. Listed candidates who lost to NOTA are not eligible for election to that office in that term. If NOTA wins in a First NOTA Election, the election for those offices goes to a Final NOTA Election, not less than 60 days and not more that 90 days after the prior election, in which the candidate with the most votes is elected.
Voters For: None of the AboveIntroductory Testimony, March 12, 1999, before the Joint Committee on Elections Laws:
My name is William H. White and I am appearing today as the director of Voters for None of the Above and the primary author of this bill. I want to thank you for this opportunity to testify.
Essentially, voters vote to decide questions and to elect to office. On any ballot question, the voter can vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’. In fact, the courts have consistently held that each question must be subject to this ‘yes’ or ‘no’ ballot option, and attempts to present “Plan A or Plan B” ballot questions have been overturned, because to give legitimate consent, voters must be able to withhold consent to a question by voting ‘no’.
Voter Consent laws are based on the principle that all legitimate consent requires the ability to withhold consent. And the legitimate consent of voters requires they be able to withhold consent to an election to office, just as they do now when voting on questions.
Voter Consent laws implement a method for withholding consent in elections to office by allowing voters to vote for “None of the Above; for a New Election” instead of voting for “Candidate A or Candidate B.”
While the cost of additional elections is a valid concern, no additional election will occur under this bill except when voters vote to hold one. And surely the cost of another election will be less than the cost of electing an unacceptable candidate to office. Also, we must keep in mind the difference between the cost of conducting the actual ballot to determine the will of the people, a legitimate public expenditure, and the cost of campaigns that seek to influence the will of the people for partisan advantage, a legitimate private expenditure. Expensive or negative campaigns that end in NOTA winning should serve to moderate such tactics.
Voter Consent laws provide for flexible, voter controlled term limits every term, as the founders of our republic intended our elections to be, eliminating the need for such devices as fixed limits on the number of terms for those who server. For example, with a binding Voter Consent NOTA Law, an incumbent running unopposed could lose the election if more voters voted for NOTA than for the candidate.
If we look at election to office as the hiring process it is, I believe the ability of voters to reject all current candidates for an office and to call for a new election with new candidates will improve the quality of those hired by election and, ultimately, the quality of life in public service.
Hopefully, the introduction of this bill begins a process that will enact a Voter Consent law in Massachusetts within the next decade.
This Voter Consent bill was written with the assistance of many, including Aaron Fellmeth, author of the California NOTA Initiative. Based in part on both of those bills, this bill is also the result of extensive discussions with John Murray and Bill Gallagher about NOTA and how it would work. It soon became apparent that a binding NOTA bill was more complex than a non binding NOTA bill, such as Washington State's, and that the initial hurdle to enacting binding Voter Consent laws was the need to define at least one way in which such a law would work. This bill is the product of that continuing effort. William H. White, 5/14/99.
This bill is a work in progress and we would appreciate your comments.
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