Nevada makes it simple. Voters in Nevada are given a choice for each race on the ballot: Candidate A, Candidate B or “none of the above,” a formal protest vote that is more or less popular depending on who candidates A and B are. In 2012, 5,770 Nevadans chose “none of the above” over Mitt Romney or President Obama, a total equaling 0.57 percent of all presidential votes cast. Obama won the state easily. In 2016, however, the results were more stark. More than 2.5 percent of the ballots cast for president in the state were “none of the above” — 28,863 in total in a race that Hillary Clinton won by 27,207. Enough protest votes to have swung the results of the election. There are protest votes in other states, too, of course; they just aren’t given space on the ballot. In most places these are called “undervotes,” ballots that are cast without a vote for the person at the top of the ticket.
In California, for example, the most recent numbers (with a lot of votes outstanding) have 12.5 million ballots cast in the state with 12.1 million cast in the presidential race. That is nearly a half-million ballots without a presidential pick, 3.6 percent of the total.
The figures are lower in other states. In Oklahoma, about 1 percent of the ballots were undervotes, although elections officials note that the number of undervotes jumped from 8,161 in 2012 to 15,931 this year. In Ohio, about 2 percent of the ballots didn’t include a pick for the presidency. In Cuyahoga County — home of Cleveland — the director of the Board of Elections said that the undervote was “one of the highest under-vote rates in a presidential election that I’ve seen.” In Florida, 1.67 percent of ballots returned didn’t include a vote for president, some 160,000 in total.