RENO — In a high-stakes election that could help determine the presidency and control of the US Senate, a judge has ruled Nevada’s unique ‘‘none of the above’’ ballot option is unconstitutional and has to go.
US District Judge Robert C. Jones ruled Wednesday that because the ‘‘none’’ option can never win, even if it gets the most votes, it essentially makes those votes not count.
The ruling came during oral arguments in Reno over a lawsuit filed in federal court in June and financed by the Republican National Committee. It sought an injunction to remove the state’s unique voter option, which has appeared on every election ballot for statewide races — including presidential and Senate contests — since 1976.
Secretary of State Ross Miller said his office planned ‘‘an immediate and expedited appeal to protect the longstanding public interest of the ‘none of these candidates’ option.’’
Nevada is the only state to offer the quirky option. It was a way to combat voter apathy after the Watergate scandal that brought down President Nixon and give voters a chance to register their disdain for their choices.
While the law says ‘‘none’’ can’t win, it could have played spoiler in a close race.
‘‘None’’ has never bested named candidates in a general election, though it has come out on top in a few primary contests. In the 1998 US Senate race, however, Democrat Harry Reid won reelection by 428 votes over then-GOP Representative John Ensign. More than 8,000 voters rejected both men and opted to vote for ‘‘none.’’
That’s a scenario the option’s challengers — a mix of Republicans, Democrats, and independents — didn’t want to see this year.
The contest between President Obama and presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney promises to be close, as does the one between GOP Senator Dean Heller and his Democratic challenger, Representative Shelley Berkley.
Conventional thinking suggests voters who select ‘‘none’’ may be more likely to favor a challenger, such as Romney, if the option wasn’t available.
In their lawsuit against the secretary of state, opponents argued that because ‘‘none’’ doesn’t count in the tally to determine a victor, voters — whether they opt for ‘‘none’’ or a candidate who breathes — are disenfranchised.