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How ‘none of these candidates’ won in Nevada

It's a good day in Nevada for "None of these candidates."

Yes, you read that right. The Supreme Court opted not to consider an appeal Republicans filed to get the "none" option struck from the ballot. So where did "none of these candidates" originate and why does it continue to generate controversy?

Okay, so why does voting in Nevada sound like taking an SAT test?

The state introduced the option of voting for "none of these candidates" in statewide races back in the 1970s in the wake of the Watergate. The idea was to counteract apathy about governance and campaigning in the wake of a massive corruption scandal. Voters fed up with all candidates might be tempted not to vote, period. But what if they could be for nobody and still vote? Voila. This clip from the film "Brewster's Millions" also explains it:

Interesting. But why all the fuss?

A Republican lawsuit. In the lead-up to the 2012 election, Republicans challenged the state to strike the "none" option from the ballot. The presidential election dynamics illustrated why it made political sense. Nevada was widely viewed as a key swing state heading into the election. Voters there sick of President Obama but not quite sold on Mitt Romney might have been inclined to vote for "none of these candidates." But absent that option, they would have had to choose. And that could have helped Romney in a close contest.


(Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

So what happened with the legal battle?

First, "none" was struck from the ballot. Later, before the election, it was restored. And after the Supreme Court's decision Monday, it looks like it's here to stay.


(James Steidl)

Did it matter in the 2012 presidential race?

Nope. Obama carried Nevada by about seven points. "None of these candidates" won 0.57 percent of the vote, or 5,770 for those of you keeping count at home. So, no, it wouldn't have made any difference in the final outcome.

What about the Senate race?

That's a different story. The Republican candidate -- incumbent Sen. Dean Heller (R) -- won by about a point over then Rep. Shelley Berkley (D). "None" received about 4.5 percent of the vote. So if those votes didn't exist, would the outcome have been different? Maybe, but it's impossible to know.

Has it mattered before?

Rarely. Most notable was 1998, when Sen. Harry Reid (D) defeated Republican John Ensign by just 400 votes. More than 8,000 voters selected "none" that year. But for the most part, it has not affected the outcomes of statewide races.


(The Washington Post)

What if "none" were to get the most votes?

Um, that's not going to happen. But even if it did ("So you're telling me there's a chance!") "none" could not win. "Only votes cast for the named candidates shall be counted in determining nomination or election to any statewide office or presidential nominations or the selection of presidential electors," according to state law.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.

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The complicated upcoming voting schedule
Feb. 20

Democrats caucus in Nevada; Republicans hold a primary in South Carolina.

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Republicans caucus in Nevada.

Feb. 27

Democrats hold a primary in South Carolina.

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