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January 16. 2014 4:22PM

NH House bill would let you vote for 'none of the above'

CONCORD -- How many times have you been in a voting booth, staring at the ballot in front of you, and, unimpressed with the choices, wished you could vote for "none of the above?"

Seven-term state Rep. Chuck Weed, a Keene Democrat, would like to give you that choice.

He's filed a bill that would add "none of the above" to New Hampshire ballots and if "NOTA," as it's called, wins, then a new election would be held.

Weed, at a hearing before the House Election Law Committee Wednesday, said it would "make democracy work better."

"Our system of government is based on informed consent and it seems to me that 'none of the above' is a way that that consent can be withheld," he told the panel.

Weed said after the hearing he believes the "none of the above" option would lead to cleaner and more positive elections, free of the constant attacks that Granite Staters have become so accustomed to.

After all, he said, no candidate wants to suffer the ultimate embarrassment of being beaten by, literally, no one.

It appears, however, the bill has the proverbial snowball's change of passing the House.

Rep. Perry, R-Strafford, calls "none of the above" a way to "legitimize hostility" by voters.

"The ultimate way to protest, I suppose, is to stay home," he said.

Rep. Shawn Jasper, R-Hudson, said there are many technical problems with the bill.

Most glaring is what happens in state House districts in which voters are asked to vote for several candidates, sometimes as many as nine.

Weed said his intent was to ensure that if a voter casts a vote for any candidate, and also chooses "none of the above," then "none of the above" would be nullified.

But the bill as it currently stands clearly states, Jasper pointed out, that if "'none of the above' receives more votes at a state election than any candidate for a particular office, a special state election shall be held" with arrangements to be handled by the Secretary of State's office.

Weed pointed out that sometimes, voters will write-in "Mickey Mouse" or any number of real or fictional people, or non-people, which, he said, "doesn't provide much of a message."

"'None of the above' works much better," he said.

Weed said there were two earlier failed attempts to pass "none of the above" in New Hampshire, in 1991 and 1994.

Secretary of State Bill Gardner said after the hearing he had no particular problem with it 20 years ago but now believes it would be problematic with the latest ballot styles.

Nevada is currently the only state that offers voters "none of the above" and has been doing so since 1976. Republicans in 2012 sued to get it stricken from the ballot, but the state's Supreme Court upheld the option, and on Monday of this week, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to consider an appeal by the national GOP.

Bob Longabaugh, a long-time election official in Alton, said that he has seen votes for many Disney characters on ballots, including Prince Valiant.

Weed said his bill would not prevent votes for cartoon characters or anyone else, since it would not replace the write-in option.

"Democracy is in trouble," said Weed after the hearing. "I really believe this option would generate more positive election campaigns."

It's a long-shot at best that the majority of his House colleagues will agree.


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