None-of-the-above won a Democratic primary this week. It was only a matter of time.

Earlier this week, Nevada Democrats chose the candidate they thought best qualified to be elected governor of the state: no one. Or, rather, not "no one," but "not any of the candidates who were actually running."

Thanks to a 1975 state law, Nevadans have the option to cast a vote for "none of these candidates." And on Tuesday, that's what Democratic voters did, voting for no one nearly 22,000 times. "None of these candidates" took 30 percent of the vote and finished first.

It's not the first time that no one has won a campaign. As the Los Angeles Times reported in 2010, "'None' won U.S. House primaries in 1976 and in 1978, the same year it won the GOP secretary of state primary. It also claimed victory in the 1986 Democratic primary for state treasurer."

This is the first time in recent years that "None" has triumphed, however. And it's not a surprise that it happened in a Democratic primary. Democrats, it turns out, like voting for nobody quite a bit more than Republicans.

In primary campaigns since 1998, Democrats have voted for "none of these candidates" at higher rates than Republicans, according to data from the U.S. Election Atlas. Over 120,000 votes have been cast for no one in eight races on the Democratic side, with "None" having and average finish of 2.5 (in other words, somewhere between second and third). "None" kept doing better in gubernatorial primaries, too: third in 2006 and second in 2010. In all primaries, "None" scooped up 15.6 percent of the vote, on average.

On the Republican side, "None" does worse, with an average finish of 3.9, at 9.5 percent of the vote.

You're probably wondering what actually happens in Nevada's gubernatorial race. Obviously, "no one" can't run for office. (Well, maybe that's not totally obvious.) The answer: the second-place finisher moves forward. Meaning that Bob Goodman, with 24.8 percent of the vote, gets the opportunity to run against to incumbent Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval (R).

Goodman is widely expected to lose. But at least he won't be losing to no one. Well, probably. You never know.

Philip Bump writes about politics for The Fix. He is based in New York City.



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Philip Bump · June 12, 2014

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