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What if we could vote "no" on candidates?

On Life

Ruminations and provocations.

What if we could vote "no" on candidates?

Stephen H. Provost

I want to vote "no" this election.

Not “none of the above.” This is different: I want to be able to actually vote against candidates I don’t like.

The cold, hard truth is there are a lot more politicians I don’t want elected than candidates I can get excited about, and I’m guessing you might feel the same way.

Sure, we can put photos of them dartboards and engage in some friendly target practice, and we can squawk about them on social media. But what if we had an actual, tangible way to express our displeasure  not by voting for some other candidate we might consider the lesser of two or more evils, but by casting a vote directly against that vile carpetbagger, commie or corporate crony we so despise?

Think of the satisfaction! We bemoan the lack of voter participation, yet just imagine how many more people might come to the polls to bury Caesar (under a mountain of “you suck!” chads) than to praise him.

ONE PERSON, TWO VOTES?

Pollsters routinely measure both favorable and unfavorable ratings for candidates. Why shouldn’t we be allowed to express those opinions at the ballot box?

What if voters got to vote twice: Once for the candidate they like, and once for the candidate they wouldn’t want to see in office before hell freezes over or a Led Zeppelin reunion tour  whichever comes second. (If I were a betting man, I’d put money on permafrost in hell over “Stairway to Heaven.”) Each vote would count equally, so you’d subtract the nays from the ayes to arrive at a net score. Imagine if the winner got 3 net votes instead of 3,000 or 3 million. We wouldn’t hear much talk of a mandate then!

Well, maybe we would. These are politicians we’re talking about.

If we wanted things to get even crazier, we could treat candidates like ballot propositions and vote "yes" or "no" on every one of them!

One complication: We’d have to change “one man, one vote” to “one man, two votes.”

So, as an alternative, we could retain the single vote  but give voters the choice of whether to vote for one candidate or against another?

RELEVANT AGAIN

Either way, the system would likely be a boon to two kinds of politician: moderates (aka centrists) and third-party candidates.

With radicals and true believers on both sides voting against their opposite numbers, the vast American center that’s often drowned out by all the shouting from the extremes might be able to gain a little clout by staying quiet. Third-party candidates would benefit, too, from flying under the radar (which they’re often very good at, despite their aspirations to the contrary.) A modest number of positive votes coupled with almost no negatives might just be enough to win it.

Would such a system result in more positive campaigning, because fewer candidates would want to risk getting too many “no” votes? Or would it give rise to even more vicious smear campaigns against the candidate viewed as the greatest threat?

Those are interesting questions.

CONSEQUENCES

Either way, candidates would have to think even more strategically than they do now, which could be even more fun to watch for political rubberneckers than it is now. We might as well post a traffic sign that reads “Warning: political pileup ahead.” For those who view politics as blood sport, this would be more fun than a trip to the Roman Colosseum in its heyday.

We voters would have to cogitate a little more, too. Do we vote for the candidate we like most or against the candidate we fear most? Or do we vote against someone else because that would be the biggest help to our favored candidate or party?

Delicious, isn’t it? There are all sorts of permutations and possible scenarios to consider.

I’ll leave you to consider the possibilities … and to wonder if this is a serious proposal or whether it’s all just tongue in cheek.

Sorry, but I’m not going to tell you. Instead, I’ll leave you with the same piece of advice that’s given to voters every time they enter the voting booth: You decide.