None Of These Candidates?

[ Posted Wednesday, February 7th, 2024 – 16:02 UTC ]

Last night, Nikki Haley suffered an embarrassing loss in Nevada's Republican primary. But it wasn't the same embarrassing loss as she suffered in New Hampshire -- or will soon be suffering in her home state of South Carolina, for that matter -- since she didn't actually lose to Donald Trump. Instead, in what can only be called a truly meaningless primary, she lost (by a 2-to-1 margin!) not to a competing candidate but rather to: "None Of These Candidates." This is an option on Nevada ballots for voters to register their vote as a protest against the choices provided. Last night, Haley got 31 percent of the vote while "None Of These Candidates" got a whopping 63 percent. That is truly embarrassing, you've got to admit.

But as I noted, the whole thing was meaningless in the first place, since Nevada is also holding a Republican caucus, tomorrow night. The caucus (not the primary) will determine all of the state's delegates to the Republican National Convention. Trump wasn't on the primary ballot and Haley won't be on the caucus ballot (due to party rules prohibiting a candidate from being on both), so Trump is obviously going to sweep up all of Nevada's delegates.

But rather than dwelling on Nikki's woes, the amusing result out of the Silver State caused me instead to indulge in a rainy winter day's deluded daydream. Because what would happen if the entire country had this option -- not just for primaries but for the general election? And what if it were binding in a way Nevada's isn't?

[Before I expound on my delusion here, allow me to set the record straight. In Nevada, "None Of These Candidates" cannot win, either in a primary or in a general election. For instance, if last night's contest were the contest which did decide the state's GOP convention delegates, then Nikki Haley would have won all of them. If "None Of These Candidates" gets the most votes, in other words, it is disregarded and the person who won the most votes (of the corporeal candidates running) thus wins the race. This has happened several times since Nevada adopted the "None Of These Candidates" option, in fact. But I looked this salient fact up after indulging in my daydream, so my fantasizing was not bound by this reality-check at all.]

If ever there were an election where a "None Of These Candidates" candidacy had a strong chance of winning, it would be the 2024 presidential race. A majority of American voters simply do not want to be presented with the same choices they were in 2020: Donald Trump versus Joe Biden. There is a lot of disappointment on both sides of the aisle over this rematch, as evidenced in poll after poll. Which made me wonder what those polls would say if "...or you could vote for 'None Of These Candidates' instead" were one of the options presented by the pollsters. I truly wonder how high that choice might poll against both Trump and Biden.

Which led directly to me wondering what would happen if None Of These Candidates actually beat both the major parties' candidates. It could do so with as little as 35 percent of the vote, after all, if the other two-thirds of voters split their votes evenly. And what would happen if None Of These Candidates won in enough states to either deny an Electoral College victory to both major candidates -- or even if it won the Electoral College outright?

What would it mean for the counting of the Electoral College votes? If the rest of the Constitution were unchanged, it would likely mean the election would wind up in the House of Representatives (which is supposed to be the backstop for a presidential election with no outright Electoral College winner). But since we're deep into creating an alternate way for presidential elections to be run anyway, why not conjure up the obvious solution to the problem of None Of These Candidates winning?

If the American electorate decidedly rejected all the candidates running for president in such a dramatic fashion, shouldn't that logically mean we should then immediately hold a second election? And since The People would have spoken, shouldn't this second election bar any candidate from the first one's ballot from running?

That would make a whole lot of sense, you've got to admit. After all, voters could register their disgust with the choices given by staying home and not voting -- but instead they turned out to reject not one or two of the candidates on the ballot but all of them. If this option won the day, then voters should be given some other options to choose from.

This, obviously, would lead to an absolute political frenzy. The two major parties would have to name new candidates without having the time to re-run any sort of primaries, so it would revert back to the days of the "smoke-filled back rooms." The second election would have to be held with lightning speed, perhaps between Thanksgiving and the year-end holidays. There would be almost no time for campaigning, obviously.

But this isn't all that unusual -- at least not in the rest of the world (where parliaments control who becomes the country's executive, usually a prime minister). Parliamentary elections can be held not due to some preordained calendar, instead being called at any point of time by the party currently in power (a "snap" election). When such an election happens, it is usually scheduled in a mere matter of weeks, or a few months at the most. That's the normal "campaign season" in its entirety, in much of the world outside of the United States. So holding an election in such quick fashion might be unusual to Americans but it certainly is a workable concept.

If both Biden and Trump (as well as Robert F. Kennedy Junior, Cornel West, and whomever No Labels decides to run) were barred from the second election, what choices might the major parties put up? That's certainly an interesting question to contemplate. All sorts of matchups would be possible, and it would boil down to which of them could get a strong majority in either the Republican National Committee or the Democratic National Committee. The R.N.C. has a large Trumpian MAGA faction within it, but just putting a Trump clone on the ballot may not seem like the smartest thing to do after Trump was rejected by voters in the first round. The D.N.C. is not as cohesively split into factions (being Democrats, there are lots of factions represented), so it's anyone's guess who they might give the nod to.

Just as one possibility -- just drawing two names from the hat, as it were -- it might wind up being a contest between Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the former governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley. That would certainly be a historic lineup -- one that would pretty much guarantee that the Oval Office's "glass ceiling" would finally be broken. Haley would be seen as the "last person standing" in the GOP primaries (other than Trump), while Whitmer would be only one of several very acceptable candidates for Democrats to choose from.

The race would be short and very intense, of course. Perhaps one or two debates might happen, but then again perhaps not. There would barely be enough time to do any polling on the two choices before the election actually happened, so the entire thing would be a whirlwind affair.

It would certainly provide a whole lot more excitement than the rest of the 2024 presidential election, that much seems certain. Constitutionally, of course, none of this could happen without a major constitutional amendment being ratified, and seeing as how Nevada is the only state with a "None Of These Candidates" option, that is probably functionally impossible.

But after Nikki Haley's embarrassing finish in the Silver State last night, it certainly was fodder for an interesting electoral daydream.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


4 Comments on “None Of These Candidates?”

  1. [1] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Chris, I can't believe that you didn't choose who the respective veeps might be! :-)

  2. [2] 
    Kick wrote:

    Nice fantasy you got there, CW; I agree that fantasizing should not be bound by any reality-check.

    And since The People would have spoken, shouldn't this second election bar any candidate from the first one's ballot from running?

    And since you're barring "any candidate," you'd also have to bar "None of These Candidates" since it's definitely a candidate by virtue of being a choice on the first ballot... because isn't every presidential election described as the "lesser of two evils" when there's virtually always more than two presidential candidates on the ballot in each of the states and DC? Of course there is.

    Additionally, I don't believe the American electorate writ large actually has a very good understanding of each state -- as set forth in the US Constitution -- running their own elections, having their own ballot access laws, and how every candidate is not automatically put on the ballot in every state. Colorado and Maine actually have ballot access laws that (taken as a whole) do actually preclude Defendant Donald from having ballot access. Trump was allowed to defend himself (and did) in Colorado and lost (seems a definite habit with that one). Other states don't have the exact same ballot access laws as Colorado and Maine and have come to different conclusions for different reasons. I also suspect many state laws are going to be changed in order to keep Wannabe Dictators off them.

    My 2020 ballot in Texas had a lot more than two presidential candidates on it:

    Donald Trump/Mike Pence (R)
    Joe Biden/Kamala D. Harris (D)
    Jo Jorgensen/Spike Cohen (L)
    Howie Hawkins/Angela Nicole Walker (G)
    Brian T. Carroll/Amar Patel (Unaffiliated) President Boddie/Eric Stoneham (Unaffiliated)
    Gloria La Riva/Leonard Peltier (Unaffiliated)
    Tom Hoefling/Andy Prior (Unaffiliated)
    Todd Cella/Tim Cella (Unaffiliated)
    Kasey Wells/Rachel Wells (Unaffiliated)
    Robert Morrow/Anne Beckett (Unaffiliated)
    Jesse Cuellar/Jimmy Monreal (Unaffiliated)
    Abram Loeb/Jennifer Jairala (Unaffiliated)

    The vast majority of them are write-in candidates because there isn't a place to write in anyone's name, but write-in candidates jump through a myriad of hoops to have their names placed on the Texas presidential ballot. Note there is no "Kanye West" since he wasn't on the ballot in all 50 states either, but I digress.

    It seems to me like (whether you meant to or not) you've made an awfully strong case for having ranked-choice voting in every state.

  3. [3] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    None of the above is under 35, sorry

  4. [4] 
    Kick wrote:


    None of the above is under 35, sorry


    It dang sure wasn't born in this country either... neither was its mother and father.

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