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None of the Above

I WOULD FEEL better about voting if it felt true - if it felt like I was able to state what I think about our shared life by voting. Sometimes what I think is that none of the candidates offered on the ballot is worthy of office.

Sometimes my truest, wisest vote would be ' 'none of the above.'' I've heard people say things like that for years as graffiti and jokes. It took some democracy rookies, the people in the Soviet Union, to show that none of the above could be a real and powerful choice.

When the Soviets had their first real elections in decades, people had the choice of voting no on the candidates offered. They could vote for one of the candidates or they could vote that they didn't want to vote for any of the candidates, and that vote counted. If no candidate got more than 50% of the vote, nobody won and the election for that office had to be held again. In some cases, candidates who ran unopposed weren't elected because they didn't get more than half the vote - more than half the people voted against them. This really shocked some of the losers. Before the elections they didn't know how disgusted people were. After the elections they did. If the voting system had been like the current U.S. voting system, where somebody always wins no matter how grossed out the voters are, they wouldn't have known how unhappy people were.

Our politicians may not know how unhappy people are with what they are being offered politically. Not voting at all is ambiguous and politicians tend to read it as naughty political indifference whereas in some cases it is profound disgust with the ludicrous choices being offered. We won't know how many people are disgusted, rather than indifferent, until we have a powerful no vote that will give people a chance to vote what they think which in some cases is ' 'The choices offered aren't any good." Politicians sometimes bring in the notion of civic responsibility rather late in the game. We're supposed to be civicly responsible by voting after they have made a mockery of civic responsibility by the quality of campaign they have run.

Consider the current situation in the United States. No matter how nasty, stupid and irrelevant to the community's problems an election campaign is and even if both candidates are clearly not qualified, one of the candidates will win. The candidates who manage to get on the ballot from one of the major parties have, as a group, a bizarre chokehold on power. If they manage to run campaigns that bore or disgust their fellow citizens to the point that only 3 people bother to vote, one of the candidates would still win and get public money and public power.

When our best thought tells us that neither candidate is worthy of office, we should be able to say so with power. It would be simple to enact a law that people can vote that they're not voting for any of the candidates and have that count. If no candidate gets more than 50% of the vote, nobody wins. They'll have to run another election and try to make it less ludicrous and repellent. This would be an effective way to, among other things, make campaigns in which both sides use dirty tactics unsuccessful for both sides. Politicians will need to learn to run a campaign in a way that more than half of the people take one of the candidates seriously enough to vote for even when they have a real choice - the choice of voting no.

THIS COULD BE a good people's movement. And it would have to be a people's movement. There's nothing in this for any politicans in power. Politicians tend to think that the set up that got them elected is practically perfect jn every way. There's always room for improvement. If the people in Germany can dance on the Berlin Wall, we can add a litttle more grace to our part of the dance of democracy by making it so we can say no and be heard and heeded when no is the wisest thing to say. Or maybe we could call this new choice on the ballot, ' 'I've looked at the candidates offered and you've got to be kidding.''