“Abstention means you stayed at home or went to the beach. By casting a blank vote, you’re saying you have a political conscience but you don’t agree with any of the existing parties.”
– José Saramago
While I was sifting through Facebook a couple of months ago, I came upon a link that a friend had posted. It was simply a checklist that followed the phrase ‘If Voting Didn’t Change Anything, We’d Still Have….’ The check-list included all the things that supposedly would not have changed if the public had not voted from ‘No women’s Rights’ to No Social Security’. Upon first glance, I liked it. The list included many of the issues I feel passionate about. However, after thinking about it, I liked it a bit less. Here’s why.
I am sick and tired of having to choose between the “lesser of two evils.” I would love the opportunity and I feel that I have the right to vote for a candidate that I truly agree on virtually every issue that is important to me.
Okay…I admit it. I abstained from voting in the last U.S. presidential election. I actually remember writing about my plight in deciding whether or not I would indeed vote many newsletters ago in an editorial entitled ‘What to Do?’ Well, this is what I did. I made a conscious and difficult decision to abstain. If all States (or at least my own voting state) offered a NOTA (None Of The Above) ballot option, I would have voted…for none of the candidates!
In Portugal and many other countries worldwide, they have this type of option (the ‘blank’ vote). In the case of Portugal, it is only symbolic of a voter’s disapproval of the candidates. In the US, only the State of Nevada has that option. There too it is only symbolic.
Wouldn’t it be something though if NOTA ballot option was more than just ‘bread crumb’ symbolism…if a majority vote for NOTA would automatically cause a new election to take place with new candidates? Wow…what a concept! I don’t know much about politics but it seems to me that would be real voter power.
Regarding that Facebook post. In reality I see the point of the post. Voting is important. However, I think a lot of those issues listed (women and civil rights, rights to social security, etc) came about more through the hard work of activists and union members rather than voting. The negative results brought about by the shortcomings of our ‘democratic’ voting systems would increase if we did not have the activism surrounding the issues. So voting helps. It is necessary but let’s not forget that activism is still the base of change. It is time to start a movement to not only include NOTA in both our state and federal elections in the USA but also to make it meaningful by allowing for a majority of NOTA votes to trigger a new election . Now that would be government by, of, and for the people!