Election choice: None of the above

06:10 PM PST on Tuesday, February 8, 2005


SEATTLE As the Republican challenge to the governor's election continues, lawmakers are considering a number of ideas to improve the Washington State election system.

One proposal is to give voters a new option: None of the above.

During this governor's election controversy, we all heard the word "undervote." That's when a voter just leaves a particular race blank.

Now, some lawmakers say instead of guessing why someone didn't vote or if that was really their intention, we should give voters another option to express themselves. They say if voters were given the option of "none of the above," there would be less confusion.

In tight races when ballots need to be recounted, it would then be obvious that a voter intentionally did not choose a candidate.

"Far fewer ballots have had to be recounted in states that have had an 'abstain' or 'none of the above' on the ticket," said Rep. Dan Kristiansen, R-Snohomish.

Rep. Kristiansen is proposing a law that "none of the above" be an option in every race in every election.

But some of his fellow lawmakers wonder what if "none of the above" should win?

"Doesn't it undermine confidence, if in fact people didn't want the candidate in?" asked Rep. Joe McDermott, D-Seattle.

"You know if the final outcome is that most people vote for 'none of the above,' so be it, but at least the voters were heard," said Kristiansen. "And I think it's a statement quite frankly to those people who are campaigning out there that they need to do a better job if they don't want to be outvoted by 'none of the above'."

Kristiansen says the candidate with the most votes would still get the office.

But county auditors say adding "none of the above" would require a longer ballot, costing more money.

"When you have all your school districts and your cities, your sewer, your water, your fire districts, and now you've got candidate A, candidate B, that survived the primary, and then you've got write-in and then you've got another line that says 'none of the above,' you're just taking space up on that ballot all the way," said Snohomish County Auditor Bob Terwilliger.

On this one issue, both state party chairs agree: Voters should have to show faith in one candidate.

"Allowing a gimmick like letting people vote for 'none of the above,' I'm not really sure how that benefits us," said Chris Vance, Washington Republican Party chair.

"I believe it demeans people who are putting themselves forward in the political process," said Paul Berendt, Washington Democratic Party chair.

The "none of the above" idea is just one proposal to change the election system.

Also considered today is a pilot program letting voters rank the candidates instead of just picking one candidate.

If the race is very close, that gives election officials more information and they can conduct an instant run-off by considering the rankings, not just looking at who won.



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