that a binding NOTA “would pass handily in the nearly tworndozen states that have the initiative and referendum” process.rn”Elected officials are totally frightened of ‘none of the above.’rnIt’s a powerful tool. Can you believe how insulting it is to bernbeaten by ‘none of the above?'”rnCalifornia Assemblywoman Jackie Speier (Democrat-SanrnMateo) believes that NOTA “allows voters to use the ballot torncut down on negative campaigning,” and she has introduced arnbinding NOTA bill in her state. “When I spoke to the publicrnabout an option of none of the above, the response was overwhelminglyrnfavorable,” she said. “While some persons expressedrnreservations about allowing for ‘disgruntled’ voters tornexpress their views, most voters understood that (NOTA) is arngood way to stop negative campaigning. I believe that negativerncampaigning is one of the leading contributors to voter cynicismrnand apath)’ With NOTA on the ballot, candidates whornoffend the public will see their campaigns, and those of theirrncompetitors, rejected at the polls.”rnThe issue cuts across the usual ideological lines. Writing inrnthe Nation in 1990, Mieah L. Sifry endorsed a binding NOTA,rnarguing that “by threatening incumbents and contenders alikernNOTA might well introduce a real choice into elections andrneventually force candidates to address the issues seriously.” Onrnthe political right, John Fund, Wall Street journal editorialist,rnsupports NOTA, saying “millions of Americans are tired of enteringrnpolling booths and having to choose the ‘lesser of twornevils.'” “NOTA isn’t a complete answer to the ills of the politicalrnsystem,” he argues. “Try campaign finance reform. But unlikernterm limits, it doesn’t limit democracy, it expands it. Andrnin those nightmare elections such as Louisiana’s, it could givernvoters a real, if as yet mysterious, alternative to the likes of Edwardsrnand Duke.”rnThe Libertarian Party platform calls for a binding NOTA.rnThe conservative Free Congress Foundation also supports thernconcept. The group’s president, Paul Weyrieh, said, “Manyrnvoters have become disillusioned with the political process.rnSome suggest voters expect too much from our leaders. Butrnour expectations must be set high. . . . That is why voters . . .rnneed the binding NOTA option on their ballot.”rnBut the most significant NOTA proponent may be politicalrnscientist Kevin Phillips. The prescient Phillips foresaw, in thernlate 1960’s, the Republican “Southern Strategy.” More recently,rnhe has accurately described the middle-class rejection of thernGOP-backed international trade agreements like NAFTA andrnGATT. In his 1994 book The Arrogant Capital: Washington,rnWall Street, and the Frustrations of American Politics, Phillipsrnwrites, “A NOTA line on the ballot adds another safeguardrnagainst the present excesses and unreaehability of the two-partyrnsystem.” Elsewhere, Phillips suggests that while Washingtonrnis bogging down, grass-roots democracy in America is surging.rnHe points to citizen support for NOTA as proof of the trend. “Ifrnsome third-rate state official was up for reelection,” Phillipsrnsaid, “but he or she was liked so much by interest groups thatrnmajor party opposition was missing or only nominal, therernwould still be a way for voters to say ‘no’—they could force arnnew race with new candidates by voting for ‘none of thernabove.'”rnRoss Perot’s most astute followers in the fledgling U.S. ReformrnParty have taken note of Phillips’ analysis. While thernprinciples of the Reform Party do not include a formal endorsement,rnmany grass-roots activists sympathetic to the grouprnendorse NOTA, as I have discovered firsthand in the Michiganrnlegislature.rnPolitical Independents have been the biggest NOTA supportersrnin Michigan. Last year, I introduced a bill in the MichiganrnI louse to establish a nonbinding NOTA option in local andrnstate elections. “Many . . . would feel more confidence in ourrnstate legislature with NOTA on the ballot,” wrote Loretta Adriaens,rnformer Michigan Issues Chairwoman for United WernStand America. “(NOTA) would make it easier for averagerncitizens to participate in government.” Vicky Beeman, anrnex-USW official, wrote, “It’s time we put an end to the TweediernDee-Tweedle Dum candidate choices. . . . The time hasrncome to empower the voters of the state of Michigan.” AnotherrnIndependent wrote, “This NOTA bill is long overduernsince more and more the voters are placed in a position whererneither option is not acceptable.” Not surprisingly, a private pollrnof Michigan Independents found that more than 90 percentrnsupport a NOTA ballot option.rnPolitical independents are the fastest-growing voting bloc inrnMichigan, but establishment Republicans have shown no interestrnin recruiting them with issues like NOTA. To build supportrnfor my bill, I proposed a plank to the Michigan Republican platformrnendorsing NOTA. The issue was tabled twice, once afterrna national GOP committeeman lobbied against the plank. Arntop Republican elective official, said to be a 1998 candidate forrngovernor, told me privately, “I know the people and they don’trnwant that.” Apparently establishment Republican officialsrnhave nothing better to offer than the stale threat, repeated adrnnauseam: “A vote for an Independent is a vote for Clinton.” Byrncontrast, the “post-term limits paradigm” accepts Independentsrnas informed voters who do not respond to threats, veiledrnor otherwise, especially when they are made by politicians. Independentsrnhave legitimate issues, including NOTA, that mustrnbe defined as within the legitimate parameters of debate if eitherrnmajor party hopes to appeal to them.rnIn committee, I offered a compromise when it became clearrnmy NOTA bill would die: an experiment to place NOTA on thernballot in only one district, my own. The compromise clearedrnthe committee by the bare minimum, five votes. On the Housernfloor, the bill was debated, then passed over for the day. Twice.rnColleague Tim Walberg (Republican-Tipton), a leading staternconservative, characterized NOTA as “a gimmick . . . thatrnbreaks down government and encourages people to be lazy.”rnAnother termed the bill “an abomination.” Never in my briefrnlegislative tenure had I ever encountered such hostility. Evenrnmy proposal to tax legislative pensions—which yielded a whoppingrnthree votes—did not generate the rhetoric engendered byrnmy NOTA bill. One constituent who witnessed the debaternasked, “What are they afraid of? It only applies to you!” Finally,rnon the third attempt, my NOTA bill passed the House, 56 torn49, again the bare minimum. But it later died in the state Senate.rnSo once again, I am passing out adhesive NOTA ballotrnstickers to mv constituents.rnTwo years ago, when I first ran against myself, I learned thatrnconstituents understand the issue much better than legislators.rnAmong the comments I received: “I’m interested in NOTA, butrnonly if the office remains vacant if NOTA wins.” “Can a politician’srnpay be reduced by the percentage of votes that NOTA receives?”rnAnd, “Could NOTA be extended to Congress and thernpresidency?” These sentiments are proof that the people arernlooking for changes in our electoral system, even if the majorrnpolitical parties and most incumbents are not.rn20/CHRONICLESrnrnrn