Skip to main content
Tags: voting
OPINION

Is It Time to Start Voting Against Candidates?

a woman sitting at a voting station giving a thumbs down
(Dreamstime)

Paul F. deLespinasse By Thursday, 11 April 2024 12:03 PM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

Given our current way of nominating candidates, voters in the general election must sometimes choose between two main contenders both of whom they detest.

The far left and right wings of the Democratic and Republican parties turn out heavily for their primary elections. Moderate voters, not so much. The resulting nominees are too extreme to appeal to the moderates who finally vote in general elections.

Sophisticated voters understand that unless they consider both major party candidates equally bad, they should hold their nose and vote for the one they consider less bad. That's what I did in 2004 when, as a lifelong Republican, I voted for John Kerry.

Since then I became a Democrat, and Kerry's impressive work as green energy envoy has lifted his stock in my estimation. But that was how I saw things in 2004.

Even if one candidate seems slightly less bad, voters should remember that every little bit helps.

Many voters, however, cannot bring themselves to vote for the least onerous major party candidate. They support a third-party candidate or don't vote, even if this increases the danger that the major candidate they like least will win.

Case in point: Former vice president Mike Pence announced that he will not support Donald Trump in 2024. But he also said that he will not vote for Joe Biden.

There are good reasons for voters to be flexible here. Today's political parties are much different from a decade or two ago. The major party you, Mike Pence, or anybody else grew up in may no longer stand for what attracted people to it in the first place.

Also, a lot of us "inherited" our party from our parents without much deep thought, and again, our current parties may be vastly different than when our parents attached themselves to them. Yet many still automatically vote for the same party.

Despite all this, sophisticated voting apparently has been too painful for many thoughtful voters, exemplified here by Mike Pence.

A simple reform, however, could allow such voters to vote as if they were sophisticated. All that's needed is legislation allowing voters to cast their votes either for a candidate or against a candidate, with the results for each candidate being the total votes for minus the total votes against.

This is not a partisan proposal. It would allow Mike Pence to cast a vote against Trump without having to vote for Biden. It would equally allow other people to cast a vote against Biden without having to vote for Trump.

Admittedly, it would have the same consequences, but that is exactly my point: Voters would be able to act as if they were sophisticated without actually having to be sophisticated.

Allowing voters to cast a vote against a candidate probably wouldn't require a constitutional amendment. There is nothing in the Constitution suggesting that votes always need to be in favor. A simple act of Congress should do it.

Rule changes should not be made lightly. They sometimes produce results that disadvantage those who supported them.

It might be prudent to include safeguards in case both major candidates got net negative votes. This might result in a little-known third-party candidate winning with just a handful of net positive votes.

But unless there are other downsides, I wish that Congress would enact this reform immediately.

Of course Congress will do no such thing. It currently is barely able to keep the government open for business. But if more voters realize that Congress could have allowed us to vote against candidates, my analysis here will not have been wasted. We can already vote against, no change in law needed.

After all, when I cast my vote in 2004, although I marked John Kerry, I was not really voting for Kerry, but just voting against George W. Bush.

Let's hear it for a bit more political sophistication!

Paul F. deLespinasse is Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Computer Science at Adrian College. He received his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in 1966 and has been a National Merit Scholar, an NDEA Fellow, a Woodrow Wilson Fellow and a Fellow in Law and Political Science at the Harvard Law School. His college textbook, "Thinking About Politics: American Government in Associational Perspective," was published in 1981. His most recent book is "The Case of the Racist Choir Conductor: Struggling With America's Original Sin." His columns have appeared in newspapers in Michigan, Oregon and other states. Read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

© 2024 Newsmax. All rights reserved.


PaulFdeLespinasse
Many voters, however, cannot bring themselves to vote for the least onerous major party candidate. They support a third-party candidate or don't vote, even if this increases the danger that the major candidate they like least will win.
voting
749
2024-03-11
Thursday, 11 April 2024 12:03 PM
Newsmax Media, Inc.

Sign up for Newsmax’s Daily Newsletter

Receive breaking news and original analysis - sent right to your inbox.

(Optional for Local News)
Privacy: We never share your email address.
Join the Newsmax Community
Read and Post Comments
Please review Community Guidelines before posting a comment.
 
TOP

Interest-Based Advertising | Do not sell or share my personal information

Newsmax, Moneynews, Newsmax Health, and Independent. American. are registered trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc. Newsmax TV, and Newsmax World are trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc.

NEWSMAX.COM
America's News Page
© Newsmax Media, Inc.
All Rights Reserved
Download the NewsmaxTV App
Get the NewsmaxTV App for iOS Get the NewsmaxTV App for Android Scan QR code to get the NewsmaxTV App
NEWSMAX.COM
America's News Page
© Newsmax Media, Inc.
All Rights Reserved