Trying to start a blank ballot revolution

October 5, 2012 

Steve Kniffen

In 1789, George Washington was elected to be the first President of the United States. He was the unanimous choice of the electors because of his character, his beliefs, and his love for and dedication to this nation. While there were many great men who were interested in serving, electors chose the man they believed would best serve the country. Washington served as president for one term, setting precedent for a modest, humble and collaborative administration in stark contrast to the dictatorial pomp and circumstance of many nations at the time. He reluctantly served for a second term but refused to accept a third term, returning to his estate and his military service, setting a pattern of presidential term limits which continues to this day.

In 2012, we face a broken and corrupt electoral process that does not allow voters to choose the best candidate for political office but forces them to choose between polished and scripted puppets elevated by two political party machines with policy platforms and entrenched ideals that very few people really know or truly agree with. Voters rarely know the men and women they vote for and often have only a vague sense of what they will truly do once they are in office. We are forced to vote for slogans and 30-second advertisements and labels rather than people who are willing to leave their lives behind to take a turn of service for this country. Our votes are bought for millions of dollars, and we are seduced by political sales teams that sell us an illusion of candidates rather than a true view of who and what we are voting for.

Political office was originally envisioned as a public service but has evolved into a profession over time. There are men and women who study and network and strive to win rather than simply agree to serve if and when their skills and abilities are needed by their communities. As a result, most Americans do not feel a connection to their political leaders, who do not share in their day-to-day experiences, speak the language they speak or have a visible presence in their communities. As a result of this disaffection, many Americans choose not to vote rather than select a candidate from a list of names they do not recognize, respect or trust to manage the affairs of their government.

Blank ballot reform would allow the electorate to select the person from their community they feel would best serve their interests. Each voter would write down the name of the candidate, incumbent or community leader they believe best represents them, rather than simply filling in the bubble of a name they hope shares their ideals. The blank ballot would allow communities to select candidates from a wider field and would encourage the re-emergence of citizen legislators who assist when asked and needed and then return to the communities they have served. Leaders would emerge from their communities rather than campaign for office and their time and finances would be focused on their efforts within society rather than air time and colorful mailers.

While the idea of the blank ballot may not be feasible nationally in 2012, here and now, in our small community, we can take a stand, make a difference, and change politics in our small corner of America. This November, end campaigns, end partisanship, and vote for a write-in candidate you believe will best serve your needs and the needs of your community.

Steve Kniffen has filed as an official write-in candidate for both the Coast Unified School District Board of Trustees and Cambria Community Services District Board of Driections elections on Nov. 6. For more, see his website at

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