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‘None of the Above’ Appeals to Many Voters

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Maryland has never had a strong movement to put “none of the above” on election ballots, but perhaps the nominations of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump could change that.

Only one state, Nevada, has “none of these candidates” as a non-binding option on the ballot, though a judge recently struck down this 40-year-old law. California voters rejected a proposition creating “none of the above” as an election choice in 2000.

Countries giving voters that option include India, Greece, Ukraine, Spain and Colombia. Russia had it for a while until 2006; Pakistan also had it one year. The United States is highly unlikely to follow these examples. It also seems unlikely “none of the above” would improve our already excessively complicated presidential election.

What’s a voter dissatisfied with Clinton or Trump to do?

Obviously, you can simply not vote in the presidential contest. More than 800,000 Marylanders older than 18 have not even bothered to register to vote, thus are already blanking those choices.

You could also write in the name of one of the 18 candidates for president from all over the country who have registered with the Maryland State Board of Elections. Why 18 people would do this simply so votes for them could be could be counted is bewildering; the state already reports write-in votes for candidates who haven’t registered.

For instance, in 2012, Santa Claus got the largest tally with 625 write-in votes; Roseanne Barr got only 64.

Libertarians, Greens

The third option is to vote for the two candidates from two other parties that Maryland recognizes and will actually appear on the ballot. That is Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico, and the Green Party’s Jill Stein, a Massachusetts doctor. Both ran as their parties nominees in 2012. Johnson got 30,000 votes (1.1%) in Maryland and Stein got 17,000 (.6%).

The Libertarian Party, as the name implies, favors limited government, less regulation and lower taxes. Some Republicans consider themselves part of the libertarian wing of their own party. Both Johnson and his running mate, Bill Weld, the former governor of Massachusetts, were two-term Republican chief executives.

The Libertarian Party and its candidates favor less foreign military action, such as in Iraq and Afghanistan, and few restrictions on personal freedoms that do not injure other persons. That’s where their views diverge significantly from mainstream Republicanism. Of the Republicans who ran for president in this cycle, Sen. Rand Paul came closest to libertarian views. His father, former Texas Congressman Ron Paul, was the Libertarian Party candidate for president in 1988, but got only 6,700 votes in Maryland.

The Libertarian Party is on the ballot in all 50 states.

Dr. Jill Stein and her Green Party have broad appeal to Bernie Sanders voters. She says on her website, “We are being battered by unemployment, inequality, poverty, injustice, endless war, impending climate catastrophe and a broken, corrupt political system. There are solutions to all these problems, but they are being blocked by political parties that serve the new corporate elite, not the people. We need a new way forward that puts people, planet and peace over profit.”

Doesn’t Matter in Maryland

In Maryland, it probably doesn’t matter if someone doesn’t vote for Hillary. Because of her strong support among minorities — Maryland is now about 48% minority — she will likely win a state that hasn’t gone Republican since 1988. But Democrats are worried about other states where margins are much closer, such as Florida. There in 2000, Ralph Nader of the Green Party took enough votes from Democrat Al Gore that he lost the electoral college and the entire election to George W. Bush.

Both parties want to frame this election as a moral choice. If you don’t vote for Trump, it’s a vote for Clinton, Republican stalwarts say; if you don’t vote for Hillary, it’s a vote for Trump, say committed Dems. But the lesser of two evils is still evil, and that’s what Bernie Sanders voters seem to be saying.

Hillary Clinton did nothing to improve her reputation for honesty when, in a “60 Minutes” interview, she said, “I don’t know anything about” those emails at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) clearly opposed to Sanders. “I haven’t followed it.”

How can she not know anything? Did her staff not brief her? How can it not be obvious that the Democratic debates the national committee arranged were fewer and broadcast at worse times than the Republican debates?

As for Trump, he strains credulity at every turn. Clinton may not tell the truth all the time, but Trump doesn’t even seem to know the difference. Reporters who have covered him from the 1980s and 1990s are beginning to resurrect the tales of Trump the ruthless businessman in the same way that Clinton’s flaws and actions have been documented for 25 years.

The Lying Media

There I go again, displaying my true colors as a member of the “lying media.” The media, or the mainstream media, the people who allegedly espouse to be fair, balanced and report the facts, are again under attack. Trump’s convention speech evoked memories of Richard Nixon with its emphasis on law and order, and media bias — Spiro Agnew’s “nattering nabobs of negativism.”

The irony of Trump’s attacks on the media is that it was the media that made possible his victory. The media’s obsession with conflict and controversy, with playing up trash talk over boring policy descriptions, is among the reasons Trump did so well with a part of the population that is understandably angry and put upon.

Republican congressional candidate Pat McDonough, running against Democratic Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, actually sent out a press release in the middle of the Republican National Convention headlined, “Pat McDonough blasts lying media.” A press release to the media blasting their lying ways got zero coverage, of course. Said McDonough:

“The convention speakers … need to begin to attack the media and expose their blatant misleading coverage of the Republican Agenda. It is clear they are out to destroy the message. This is only the beginning and part of their planned attack to protect Hillary. The people must be educated and alerted to the plot. This is the only national and open opportunity we will have to expose them and define their actions. Our attack must be early and continuous.  During the Nixon-Agnew campaign, the VP was used as the guided missile that neutralized the media.”

How does this explain the relish with which the media covered the controversy of the DNC emails, the unhappiness of Bernie backers and their booing of the party chairman? How could they not cover it? Not only was it real, it was conflict and controversy.

Attacking the media, especially for a radio talk show host (as McDonough has been for years), plays well with his political base. As part of the media — even if people say to me, “that doesn’t apply to you” — how do you respond to such attacks? By doing journalism as best you can. Sometimes our best isn’t good enough.

Is there media bias? Sometimes. Does the media get things wrong and emphasize the wrong things? Always. Should it stop trying to get the facts straight, even if “truth” is somewhat elusive? Never.

That’s going to be very hard in this already bitter, nasty campaign that’s already chock full of lies, distortion and untruth.