[Viewpoint]Vote for ‘none of the above’

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[Viewpoint]Vote for ‘none of the above’

An election is a kind of choice. If you cannot choose which candidate with competency, experience and high morals deserves your vote, it is a happy agony.
Unfortunately, however, the elections we have experienced so far made us choose not the best or the second-best, but the second-worst.  When we are faced with such choices, we have two options.
If you don’t want the worst candidate to be elected, you will just vote for anyone else. Or you might choose not to vote at all. Either way, it’s unfortunate for the voter.
However, there could be a third option for voters.
How about introducing the choice of “None of these candidates” on the ballot? That way, a voter who is not satisfied with any of the candidates nominated by the political parties or the independents can still express his or her opinion.
If “None of these candidates” gets the majority of the votes, a new election should be held. In such a case, the candidates who ran in the original election would not be allowed to run again, because they have already been rejected by the voters. The new election would be held with a fresh set of candidates. In an election campaign, the choice is referred to as “None of the above,” abbreviated as “NOTA.” It means that the voter does not support anyone listed on the ballot. In the United States, the state of Nevada gives that option to the voters, and the Green Party of California has the NOTA choice in its the party primary.
A Tennessee politician formerly named David Leroy Gatchell changed his middle name to “None of the above” and ran for the 2002 governor’s race and 2006 Senate election. An online petition made the rounds in support of legislation for NOTA, and the Green Party and the Wall Street Journal both support the idea. Spain and Ukraine have already adopted such a system.
Of course, having a new election due to NOTA is very rare. In Nevada, where the NOTA option has been offered since 1976, it has received an average vote of 7.7 percent. Russia had the system but abolished it in 2006 because it had little practical effect. However, the NOTA option is likely to be very effective in Korea, where political parties have a strong regional base and the nomination process is less democratic.
In last year’s May 31 regional elections, some Yeongnam voters were displeased with the Grand National Party candidates, and some Honam voters were dissatisfied with the Democratic Party candidates. People who had accumulated wealth from unethical business practices or were former loan sharks won their party nominations. One could easily guess they had some under-the-table deals with the National Assembly representatives of the region.
Then why didn’t the Yeongnam voters vote for the Democratic candidate, and the Honam voters for Grand National Party candidate, one might ask. It might be a rational choice, but it is not easy to overcome deep-rooted regional sentiment.
When you do not support the candidate of the party of your choice yet don’t want to vote for a candidate representing another party, the NOTA option can be useful.
Let’s say that the NOTA option received enough votes in a district such as Yeongnam or Honam for a new election to be held. Then the local lawmakers and the party leaders involved in the nomination process would be criticized, and the party’s image would be undermined. The simple introduction of the NOTA option would mean that politicians could not afford to be arrogant and exploit the voters of their constituency.
We often say abstaining from voting is an expression in itself. There is no reason not to adopt the “None of the above” option. If a majority of the voters don’t support any candidates, a new election should be held.
The NOTA option would be a far more active expression of voter opinion than abstention. It is also a way to boost low turnout in regional or by-elections.
Only the political parties that want to use voters as political pawns, abuse their nomination right and shamelessly make collusive bargains will oppose the legal introduction of such an option.
If it were to be adopted for the April 25 by-election, many of the voters in the Yeongnam and Honam regions would want to vote “none of the above.”

*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kim Du-woo
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