An estimated 55.6% of eligible voters voted in the 2016 US election that saw Donald Trump elected as the next US president. That is an abysmal turnout, but an entirely understandable one, given the state of the candidates and the level of debate in the run up.
It also transpires that Clinton, much like Gore in 2000, won the popular vote nationwide but, due to the First Past The Post (FPTP) voting system and the vagaries of the 100 year old electoral college system, lost out when it came to securing the all important 270 delegates.
Naturally, there is now much belated talk, again, of electoral reform and the ‘state of democracy’ and, inevitably, the focus has fallen on efforts to introduce a more proportional voting system. This is a red herring plan, in my view, that would involve tearing up a tried and tested system that directly benefits the two main parties of power and that can always be presented by them as ‘democratic enough’, even if plenty of people disagree.
But there is a much simpler, much more achievable and much more immediately transformative reform staring everybody in the face. One that actually already exists in some form in the US, setting out a clear precedent and an opportunity for expansion.
Does anybody truly believe that many of those who turned out and voted for Trump or Clinton, having opted for the perceived lesser of two evils, did not do so through gritted teeth? We’ll never know how many for sure, but I’m willing to bet that a great many of them would instead have made use of a formal & binding ‘None of the Above’ (NOTA) option on the ballot paper / voting machine had one been available.
It also stands to reason then, that many more of the over 100 million who didn’t vote at all would surely have considered doing so if they’d had the opportunity to formally tell all candidates and parties where to go in a way that could’ve affected the result if enough people had chosen to do so.
One US state, Nevada, already has a form of NOTA, but unfortunately it is a non-binding kind of faux-NOTA that cannot in any way affect the result and is therefore of little interest to disillusioned voters, some of whom are campaigning for it to be made binding and extended across the rest of the US. This is an initiative that we must whole heartedly support.
In my view, there is absolutely no rational argument for keeping a formal, binding NOTA option off the ballot paper in a world where pseudo-fascist populism and yet more neoliberal Wall Street / City of London puppetry are the only available options (if you agree, please help us to help you by signing this petition on the 38 degrees website and sharing this post).
But we cannot make this argument and take it to the mainstream without serious numbers and serious support. I have, more than once, tried to impress upon various organisations such as 38 Degrees, Make Votes Matter, Unlock Democracy and the Electoral Reform Society the importance of our campaign and why NOTA should be the priority of all progressives and democratic reformists.
Surely this point has now been made beyond all doubt. Donald Trump is the next US President, after all. Have another go at trying to let that sink in for a minute.
NOTA, properly implemented, is a democratic pre-requisite, representing as it does the essential ability to be able to formally withhold consent and reject all that is on offer at an election, if deemed necessary, in a way that can affect the result if enough people do it. This mechanism, in its fully fledged form, is currently absent both in the US, the UK and indeed everywhere, when it should be central to any and all systems claiming to be truly democratic. When understood this way, you cannot argue against it and still be pro-democracy, meaning that all the while there is a need to present the various systems we have as paragons of democracy, NOTA is 100% achievable.
A form of NOTA is already UK Green Party policy. We now need to get this essential, transformative reform seriously recognised and firmly on the table across the board. In my view, as a matter of urgency.
With this in mind, I implore anyone reading this to familiarise yourself with the current state of play and recent articles on our website and start the all important conversations with your friends and families about how coming together and campaigning for NOTA presents a golden opportunity for us all to meaningfully push things forward at this critical time.
Again, you can support the campaign for formal, binding NOTA in the UK by following the links below and signing our petition:
If you live in the US, you can support and help draw attention to the need for a formal, binding NOTA option on ballot papers here.
Onwards & Upwards.