Jim Brown Audio Player
Monday, November 20th, 2022
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
LOUISIANA VOTERS NEED ELECTION ALTERNATIVES!
In last week’s column, I wrote about the aversion of a large number of Louisiana voters who were not in favor of any candidate on the ballot. Many voters just wanted to throw the bums out. But most of the incumbents running for reelection had large campaign war chests, and just overwhelmed any significant challenge.
Our US senator, John Kennedy, could have paid off the national debt with all the money he was able to raise. His expensive TV spots were first rate and portrayed his Washington accomplishments and his commitment to Louisiana values well. But it took money. Lots of campaign money. His handful of challengers didn’t have a chance. You can say the same for all the members of the Louisiana congressional delegation. Like Lisa Minnelli sings in Cabaret: “Money makes the world go round.”
Really, most voters in the Bayou State are satisfied with their elected officials they send to Washington. But what if they’re not? Do they have any alternative, especially when the competition is made up of minor candidates, who are unable to raise any significant campaign dollars to challenge? Not at present. But what if there was a third choice for voters, one that allows a voter to express dissatisfaction with the current crop of candidates?
You may be too young to remember, but such a third choice was proposed back in 1973 by an obscure state senator from Ferriday. I’m not sure of his name. Might have been some guy named Senator Jim Brown. Legislation was proposed to give voters an additional choice. If you did not like any candidate on the ballot, you could simply vote “None of the Above.” That’s right. Voters would have the option to express their dissatisfaction all with the candidates running for a particular office. If “None of the Above” received the most votes, then a new election would be required.
My legislation received strong support from a number of good government groups throughout the state. I received numerous letters and phone calls from Louisianians all over the state expressing their support for such a unique propopsal. But then the old guard got together and torpedoed what I thought was a good idea. Older senators said they just could not support my legislation. They were worried that “None of the Above” might win. As the state’s senior member, BB “Sixty” Rayburn told me: “˜”Gettin’ beat by none of the above? That could happen, and how humiliating it would be.”
But if such a choice was available in Louisiana elections, the polls show that “None of the Above “would win in a number of races in a landslide. And to many voters here in the Bayou State, that wouldn’t be all that bad.
Actually, the idea has picked up interest and has started to create a lot of traction, especially out west. Here’s what the Wall Street Journal recently wrote. “It’s time to consider giving voters a binding None of the Above line on ballots.” And how about Nevada? Since 1975, Nevada ballots have included this ultimate protest option: “None of These Candidates.” It’s something no other state has so far.
“In Nevada, it was a post-Watergate effort to try to get people to participate in the process, but also here’s a chance to sort of vent if they’re disappointed about their choices,” says University of Nevada Las Vegas political science professor David Damore. “The big consequence of it is that you end up typically in a close race with the winning candidate not getting 50 percent.”
So who knows where this unique idea may end up. A few years back, there was a fellow up in Winnsboro named L.D. Knox. He went into the court and legally changed his name to L.D. “None of the Above” Knox. He never won elective office, but apparently garnered more votes than most people in that area thought he would get. Maybe this was a little extreme, but it did show more interest in the idea.
Here’s the bottom line. As I wrote last week, until there are ways to reduce the amount of campaign funds that incumbents are allowed to raise and spend, a significant number of voters are going to be unhappy. None of the above may not be the solution, but there’s got to be a better way for candidates to talk about issues, and not spend all their time raising campaign dollars.
Peace and Justice
Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the South and on websites worldwide. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownla.com. You can also look over a list of books he has published at www.thelisburnpress.com.