None of the above

March 02, 1992

Maryland law does not allow write-in votes in the presidential primary, so Democrats here who don't care for any of the announced candidates will not be allowed to express themselves Tuesday.

There are even some Republicans who don't like their choices in Maryland -- about 11 percent, according to a recent Mason-Dixon Poll, 15 percent according to a poll by Robert Hitlin Research.

But there are a lot of Democrats. For them, having to choose only among the active candidates is going to be painful. Mason-Dixon said 24 percent were still undecided last weekend; Hitlin said 33 percent were.

This rejection of the announced candidates until the last minute has been noted in other primary states this year. It led many observers to believe a write-in campaign for New York Gov. Mario Cuomo would succeed in New Hampshire. It flopped. He got 3.9 percent of the vote. That was in a state with a long history of writing in candidates. Write-in candidates have even won presidential primaries in New Hampshire in the past.

Perhaps a better way to send candidates a negative message is to allow "none of the above" write-ins or a permanent such line on ballots, in addition to space for write-ins for individual candidates.

As a general proposition, we don't believe in ballot clutter -- long lists of every conceivable candidate, fringe, outer fringe and lunatic fringe. But we do believe voters should have unlimited rights to express themselves.

Unable to write in and unwilling to support listed candidates, many voters just stay home on primary day. That is the opposite effect a ballot should have. The General Assembly ought to revoke the state's primary law forbidding write-ins.

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