Nevada's 'None of these Candidates': A Unique Choice

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There's something on your Nevada ballot this year that no other voters in the nation see. Down at the bottom on all statewide races, a final choice.

Not a candidate, but a protest of sorts. In fact, it's called "None of these Candidates."

You can credit the Watergate scandal and a now retired Nevada lawmaker for this unique ballot entry.

The break-in at the Democratic Party headquarters during the 1972 campaign and the investigations that followed toppled a president and soured the American public on politicians in general.

The next election cycle Don Mello, then a Sparks assemblyman, discovered just how turned off the public was as he campaigned door to door in his district.
"They would tell me if they went to the polls they would vote for me because they had in the past, but they weren't going."

Worried the disgust over Watergate would keep many away from the polls altogther, Mello came up with what he thought was a solution.

The next day, he tried it out on those voters. "Everyone of them thought it was a great idea if they could vote no in a race."

But when he went to Carson City he found little enthusiasm among his fellow lawmakers.

"They hated the idea," he says. Some were open to applying the choice to the presidential races. Mello wanted it offered in all. The compromise was to use it in all statewide races--U-S Senate, the govenror and other state constitutional offices. And there it's stayed.

It passed in the Assembly with only 3 nay votes. It was unanimous in the Senate.

The public took to it. Others didn't.

"The parties wanted to do away with it. The Democratic party. The Republican party. They didn't want it on the ballot because they thought it drew votes away from their candidates."

There were in succeeding years an attempt or two to get rid of it. Veteran lawmaker Lawrence Jacobsen one of only three to vote against it in 1975 once introduced a bill to dump it. Mello says he quickly regretted it.

"A month after he introduced it, we talked with one another in the hallway and he said I wish I'd never introduced that thing. I'm getting so many calls from people saying leave it on the ballot. We want it."

So, after 35 years the choice remains. Mello says he thinks it's had positive effects, encouraging turnout by giving voice to the dismay with the choice of candidates before them.

He has only one regret.

"It doesn't go far enough."

The votes are tallied and reported, but don't directly affect the outcome.

Nevertheless, three times over the years, none of these candidates, has actually won. The Republican primaries for congress in 1976, congress and secretary of state in 1978. Those candidates went on to lose in the general election.

One man, Charles Earhart lost to "None of these Candidates" in two of those elections.
Still years later, he was quoted as thinking the choice was a good idea.