Why can't Texans vote for "none of the above"?

In multiple-choice tests we encountered in school, there was often the option of answering a question with "none of the above" if we believed none of the answers provided were correct.

When voters seek to answer the question of who should serve as president, governor or mayor, what can they do if they do not believe any of the candidates are qualified or will really serve the people's interests? What if a voter cannot in good conscience support any of the candidates for that particular office? What are the options in Texas? Currently, a voter must either cast a vote violating one's conscience or not vote in that race.

One might withhold a vote due to indecision or lack of knowledge, but it is quite frustrating to have considered each candidate carefully but not have an option to say "no" to all of them.

Our election system should not only encourage participation by those who are satisfied with one of the candidates but also welcome those who are not. It should recognize the opposition's voice.

As we approach the general election and reflect on many months of campaigning, it's time to consider how we can improve our elections process. Is it working well? Is it yielding the best candidates? If not, is there something we can do to improve it?

Many consider voting to simply be the selection of the lesser of two evils, which is a sad commentary on our times (and points to a deeper problem). But this is the dilemma many face when considering the current field of presidential candidates. Which one is less evil?

Certainly, not all are in this position — many do fully support a candidate in the upcoming election for president — but it seems there are more voters now than in previous cycles who are dismayed by the current choices.

This predicament is not exclusive to the presidential race. There are plenty of races down the ballot for which voters may wish to oppose all the candidates.

When people are faced with such questions, they either tend to not vote in that particular race or — if it is high up on the ballot — not bother to go to a poll at all.

At a time when voter engagement is dangerously low and political cynicism is high, we should consider any proposal that has the possibility of prompting all qualified voters to carefully consider the candidates and express their conviction through voting for a candidate or against them all.

This is hardly a new idea. Nevada has a form of "none of these candidates" voting, along with numerous countries around the world, including Sweden, Finland and India. It is an idea that still needs some fleshing out, however.

If we were to institute a "none of the above" option and that choice won a majority or a plurality of votes in a particular race, a second election might be required where the previous candidates would be disqualified from running. Another option would be to allow the "none of the above" vote to inform the winning candidate of that portion of the electorate's dissatisfaction and lack of confidence.

Dragging the election process out is not something many of us are likely to embrace, but it is time to take a serious look at how we conduct our elections. We must make sure our elections promote accountable government and allow voters to actively participate — whether they agree with the candidates on the ballot or not.

David Simpson

Former state representative