Unlike California, the Silver State since 1975 has given its voters the ability to register their disapproval of all of the named candidates running for a particular office in statewide and presidential elections by voting for “None of these candidates,” commonly referred to as NOTC.
The Nevada Secretary of State reports the vote count but NOTC ballots, of course, are not counted in determining the winner.
Voters just feel better about themselves by checking the box that they don’t like any of the candidates (or anything else to do with politics and politicians).
When I feel particularly dissatisfied about ballot candidates, I write in “D. Duck.” Although never elected, Donald has served me well over the years.
Supposedly having NOTC on Nevada ballots favors the Republican or the Democrat party. Can you guess which one?
In presidential, senatorial and gubernatorial general elections, NOTC has typically garnered only a very low percentage of the vote, while in primary elections, the ballots cast for NOTC have at times exceeded those cast for the named candidates.
In the 1980 presidential primaries, more voters cast ballots for NOTC than for Ted Kennedy, and primary winner Jimmy Carter narrowly “beat” NOTC.
NOTC DISENFRANCHISES VOTERS
In June 2012, 11 plaintiffs filed suit alleging that allowing Nevada voters to vote NOTC disenfranchises voters by disregarding their votes.
NOTC votes are counted but discarded. They want an end to NOTC on ballots. I have a quick answer for that claim: If you want your vote counted, don’t vote NOTC.
I should have been a judge. Alas, I’m not, so lets see how the federal Court of Appeals handled this.
STANDING TO SUE
The deciding issue in this case was whether the 11 plaintiffs had “standing” to sue and challenge Nevada’s NOTC statutes.
Without getting too “deep into the weeds” as we are fond of saying these days, which means I won’t bore you with (or don’t understand) the legalese, the Court separated the plaintiffs into three categories: (1) seven plaintiffs expressed an intent to vote but not NOTC, (2) two plaintiffs claimed they wanted to cast ballots for NOTC, and (3) two plaintiffs were Republican designees for presidential elections, who claimed NOTC votes stole votes from them.
I guess we know which political party is troubled by NOTC ballots.
The Court of Appeals ruled the seven plaintiffs who had no intention of voting for NOTC did not have standing as they would not be damaged or even effected. Duh. Even Judge Porter got that one.
The Court then turned to the two plaintiffs who said they wanted to vote for NOTC. This is my favorite part of the opinion. All of the plaintiffs, including the two, were asking the Court to remove the option of casting a ballot for NOTC, as it disenfranchises voters
The Court acknowledged the two plaintiffs had a personal stake in that vote, but as the Court noted, ironically the two plaintiffs wanting to vote NOTC asked to remove NOTC from the ballot, and that would worsen the position of voters who intend to cast ballots for NOTC. The Court concluded those two plaintiffs lacked standing.
The third class of plaintiffs, the two Republican candidates, sued because NOTC potentially siphons votes from Republicans.
WIN A FREE COLUMN
If you guessed the Republican party was more interested in this Nevada ballot issue than the Democrats, you win a free copy of this column.
Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter Simon licensed in California and Nevada, with offices in Truckee and Tahoe City, California, and Reno, Nevada. He was the Governor’s appointee to the California Fair Political Practices Commission and McPherson Commission, both involving election law and the Political Reform Act. Jim’s practice areas include: real estate, development, construction, business, HOA’s, contracts, foreclosures, mediation and other transactional matters. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or at the firm’s website www.portersimon.com.