HOW ABOUT VOTING 'NONE OF THE ABOVE'?
As voters, Oregonians are often faced with less than satisfactory candidates who are running for office. The most prominent reminder of this was during the 1998 election for governor. The choices were incumbent governor John Kitzhaber and political maverick Bill Sizemore.
To say the choices were less than appetizing would be an understatement. Consider the kind of candidates voters are left with on a more local basis. Positions for city council, county commissioner and school board too often have only one person running for the spot and voters either don't vote for that position or plug their noses and vote in spite of their objections.
One state did something about this problem in 1975. Nevada initiated a voting option that allows voters to vote "none of these candidates" when faced with candidates that they find unappealing. What happens if "none" wins the election? Then a new election would be held until someone received more votes than "none." This may seem like a mess to a lot of people but it causes those candidates who think they can win just because they're running to think again.
During a recent gubernatorial primary, "none" got 24 percent of the votes compared to the winner, Nevada State Sen. Joe Neal, who received 36 percent. Even though Neal will now face Republican Gov. Kenny Guinn in the November election, a substantial number of Democrats didn't support Neal, which means he will have a lot of work to do to convince those voters to back him.
We could think of many times, including some upcoming local elections, where being able to vote for "none" might send the right kind of message. You just can't run for a spot and think you'll get elected by default. The percentage of Oregonians voting in elections has been dropping, even with vote-by-mail. We think that is in part because the quality of candidates has been less than average.
The "none" vote may not be the best way to tell candidates they don't deserve the position just because they run for it, but it would send a message that it's time to focus on the issues, make better decisions and recognize that no one is a shoo-in to win.
Nevada may be best known for its gambling but it should also be considered a state that is concerned about political reform. It might be time for Oregon to consider the "none" option.
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