More than 16,000 voters chose “none of these candidates” this year in the Senate race between incumbent Sen. Harry Reid and Republican challenger Sharron Angle.
That sounds like a high number, considering only about 8,000 voters chose “none of these” in the 2006 Senate election. However, according to Pam duPré, spokesperson for the Nevada Secretary of State, the percentage of voters who chose “none” is within a fairly normal range.
A higher voter turnout accounts for the drastic change in the actual number of voters choosing “none of these,” duPré said. This year 2.25 percent chose “none,” compared to 1.41 percent in the 2006 race.
Political analysts were projecting a higher percentage of voters to choose “none” this year, duPré said.
“I don’t think it was particularly surprising,” duPré said.
duPré said she believes voters who are unhappy with Reid but did not want to vote for Angle or any of the other candidates cast a “none of these” vote in protest.
But does casting a “none of these” vote mean a voter is throwing away his or her vote? Derek Kauneckis, assistant professor with the University of Nevada, Reno Department of Political Science, says the “none” vote is not a waste but it may not have the short-term effect some seek.
Kauneckis said the “none” vote does provide information to political consultants, but if a voter casts such a vote with the intention of voting “against” all candidates, it really doesn’t work that way.
Moderate Republicans who cast a “none of these” vote because they did not support Angle may as well have voted for Reid, Kauneckis explained, unless the voter’s only intention was to send a message to their own party.
Washoe County Registrar of Voters Dan Burk said he is surprised at the high number of “none” votes given the number of candidate options in this year’s Senate race.
Besides the Democratic and Republican candidates, there was an Independent candidate and a Tea Party candidate from which to choose.
Burk surmised the high number of “none” votes came as a result of campaigns that were waged to encourage voters, especially Latinos, to cast a protesting vote.
“There were a lot of flyers out there (urging people to vote for none),” duPré said.
Kauneckis said the reasoning behind casting a “none of these” vote varies and depends on how sophisticated the voter is.
“You have to think strategically,” he said.
In the Angle/Reid competition, Kauneckis said the “none” votes probably didn’t have much effect on the overall outcome of the race.
“That small of a percentage probably didn’t make a difference,” Kauneckis said.
Reid won with 50.24 percent of the vote, compared to Angle’s 44.59 percent, according to the Secretary of State. Even if Angle had gained the votes of the 2.25 percent who voted for none of the candidates, it would not have been enough to secure a victory.