RENO, Nev.—Used to be, Nevadans had a real choice in their statewide and presidential elections. Besides the Democratic and Republican candidates, a Nevada citizen could pick a third option: "None of the Above." Of course, it would be a "protest vote," since such a vote wouldn't show up in any candidate's totals, but whatthehell; Nevadans historically are an ornery lot, and the state has a fairly large libertarian contingent, so "None of the Above" is a perfect fit for them.
That is, it was until yesterday, when U.S. District Judge Robert Jones found "None of the Above" to be unconstitutional, even though it's been part of the ballot since 1976. (Anybody remember Carter v. Ford, a choice Nevadans couldn't have been happy with?)
The ruling resulted from a lawsuit filed in June by 11 plaintiffs, at least two of whom are Republican Electors in the state, and financed in part by the Republican National Committee, where the Tea Party contingent argued that the choice "disenfranchises voters because it's a perpetual loser."
"Under state law, even if 'none' receives the most votes, it doesn't win," explained the AP's Sandra Chereb. "Victory is reserved for people, though 'none' before has played a role in determining the winner in some high-profile races."
Of course, that's exactly why the Repugs wanted to ditch it. By just about any measure, the contest between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama is likely to be a close one (even if no one in his/her right mind can figure out why), and too many disgruntled Nevadans "abstaining" by voting for "None of the Above" could easily give the state to Obama.
The 'Pugs' more likely concern, however, is the senatorial contest between the Repug incumbent, Sen. Dean Heller, who was appointed to his position by Gov. Brian Sandoval to fill the vacancy left by John Ensign's resignation but who must now face the electorate to stay in office, and Dem Shelley Berkley, currently the representative of Nevada's First Congressional District for more than a decade—and given a "Dishonorable Mention" by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) in its 2011 Most Corrupt Members of Congress Report. (She sponsored legislation that would have benefitted her husband's medical practice.)
And that concern seems well-founded. In Nevada's 1998 senatorial race, Harry Reid beat John Ensign by a mere 428 votes, while "None of the Above" scored a whopping 8,125 "supporters"—and Repugnicans are incredibly worried that they won't be able to wrest the Senate majority from the Democrats, especially with losing candidates like Todd Akin in Missouri.
One of the lawsuit's losers, Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller, said that he is "planning an immediate and expedited appeal to protect the long-standing public interest of the 'none of these candidates' option," but he'll have to move quickly. Judge Jones has refused to stay his decision pending that appeal, and also has not yet released his opinion in written form—and the deadline for printing ballots in the state is September 7.
But the larger question remains: Why is (or was) Nevada the only state where voters could officially register their unhappiness with each party's choice? Shouldn't that be every citizen's right?