~  Why enact NOTA based Voter Consent Laws? ~

By William H. White

Given voter dissatisfaction with "lesser evil" and "one choice" elections as well as excessively negative campaigns, many voters often wish to vote NO in elections to office just as they can on ballot questions.

Why not?  Government must obtain the consent of the governed, and all legitimate consent requires the ability to withhold consent. Clearly, the legitimate consent of voters requires they be able to withhold their consent to an election to office. 

Essentially, elections to office are hiring decisions made by voters, where the political parties act as search firms and the campaign serves as the interview/assessment process. Can you imagine any institution that would arrange its affairs so search firms would each send a single job candidate for a position, with the understanding one of them must be hired? Compounding that problem, the two largest search firms arranged the institution's regulations so that, expect in rare instances, only they present candidates for selection. Worst still, often only one candidate is presented in these "must hire" elections. Furthering difficulties, where there is a choice of candidates, the “must hire” method causes candidates to attack each other rather than discussing their own qualifications. Any institution using such methods would soon be controlled by those search firms. The wonder is government is not more of a mess than it is, since that is exactly how we hire (elect) most candidates for public office.

Instead, we could enact Voter Consent laws giving voters a binding "None of the Above" (NOTA) option after each candidate list, which calls a new election, with new candidates, to fill the office should NOTA win. While NOTA by-elections are an expense, they would not occur unless voters vote to hold them, and are likely less costly than electing unacceptable candidates to office.

With a NOTA ballot option, voters make the final decision about the choices political parties made, rather than those parties deciding the final choices voters can make. Even candidates running unopposed would have to obtain voter consent to be elected. And all political parties would know their selected candidates must face NOTA as well as any opponent, reducing the incentives for negative campaigning and "lesser evil" candidates. Buying "access" to candidates or determining election outcomes with contributions becomes a more uncertain enterprise.

Surely Voter Consent laws will not solve all the problems with democratically governing ourselves; however, it seems to me NOTA based Voter Consent laws are a common sense, much needed improvement, returning some power to "We the People", from whom our constitution draws its legitimacy, and taking some power from political parties and corporations, whom our constitution never mentions.

        Below is a list of specific reasons for enacting NOTA based Voter Consent laws:

  • All legitimate consent requires the ability to withhold consent; "None of the Above" gives the voter the ballot option to withhold consent from an election to office, just as voters can cast a "No" vote on a ballot question.

  • Would end the "must hire" elections where voters are often forced to vote for the least unacceptable candidate, the all too familiar "lesser evil."

  • A candidate must obtain voter consent to be elected, even if running unopposed.

  • Voters would decide the fate of the political parties' choices, instead of the parties deciding the voters' choices.

  • It should reduce negative campaigning by encouraging candidates to campaign for their own candidacy rather than against their opponent's candidacy.

  • Many voters and non voters, who now register their disapproval of all candidates for an office by not voting, could cast a meaningful vote.

  • The meaning of elections should become more clear, since voters would no longer be tempted to vote for a presumed losing candidate, with whom they really do not agree, as a protest vote.

  • Establishes flexible, voter controlled term limits of one term for every office, as the framers of the U.S. Constitution intended.

  • Campaign contributors who give to all candidates to insure "access" would no longer be sure they backed the winner; in general, buying elections should become a more uncertain enterprise.

  • Improves checks and balances between voters and political parties, especially needed in jurisdictions with one dominant political party or nearly identical alternatives.

  • Political parties would nominate candidates knowing those candidates must be a better choice for voters than "None of the Above."

  • Follow-up by-elections are far less costly than electing unacceptable candidates to office.

  • Office holders, knowing they face "None of the Above" in the next election, would be encouraged to insure their re-election by focusing more on doing a good job in office and less on attempting to prevent the emergence of an effective opposition candidate.

  • When pre-election polls include "None of the Above", the feedback from voters should help guide candidates and parties.

  • Even when "None of the Above" does not win or is a non-binding NOTA, the reported NOTA vote would help identify those offices for which voters might be more receptive to new candidates in a future election as well as limits the winner's mandate.

  • Provides a permanent option for voters to withhold consent that is independent of expensive and infrequent candidate based "reform" movements.

  • Should make public service more attractive by improving the quality of those elected to office.

  • Opportunities for election fraud should be reduced because fewer blank votes for an office would be cast.

  • Applies to all candidates and parties equally.

  • It is a relatively simple, fair, sensible, accomplishable and permanent improvement to our current system, hopefully making for a more democratic and ultimately stronger America.

    I welcome any comments you may have and suggest that you contact me directly either by phone or e-mail.

Sincerely,
William H. White
Director, Voters for None of the Above ( www.nota.org )
508-896-4878
email

 

[Note: Because a binding NOTA based Voter Consent law gives voters the power to call a new by-election instead of electing a candidate, any responsible call to enact such laws requires a detailed description of how the process might in fact work. Voters for None of the Above drafted a Voter Consent law for Massachusetts (http://www.nota.org/notabill.htm), which may prove useful as a template for drafting Voter Consent laws in other jurisdictions.]


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Revised: 12/28/06.