If you’re dissatisfied with the candidates vying for election, there’s no need to fret. Since 2013, ECI has offered the option of NOTA, or “None of the Above.”
Unfamiliar with NOTA? Allow us to enlighten you.
1. WHAT IS NOTA?
NOTA or ‘None of the above’ is a ballot option that a voter can choose to apply instead of giving their vote to any of the contesting candidates.
In September 2013, the SC ruled that every voter should have the right to register a ‘None Of The Above’ vote. From then on, the option has been in the electronic voting machines.
2. DOES NOTA WORK AS A ‘REJECT TO ALL CANDIDATES’ OPTION?
It has been argued that NOTA is not had ‘the right to reject’ all candidates standing in the election, but instead ‘the right to register a negative opinion’.
This option is based on the principle that “consent requires the ability to withhold consent in an election”.
2018 Assembly Elections Data about NOTA in Belagavi Assembly constituencies
|AC||Valid Votes||NOTA Votes Polled||%|
3. DOES NOTA VOTE COUNT?
The Election Commission clarified that votes cast as NOTA are counted, but are considered ‘invalid votes’. Therefore, votes made to NOTA will not change the outcome of the election.
For example, as the former Chief Election Commissioner pointed out: “Even if there are 99 NOTA votes out of a total of 100, and candidate X gets just one vote, X is the winner, having obtained the only valid vote. The rest will be treated as invalid or no votes.”
4. THEN, WHAT IS THE USE OF NOTA?
NOTA gives people dissatisfied with contesting candidates an opportunity to express their disapproval. This, in turn, increases the chances of more people turning up to cast their votes, even if they do not support any candidate, and decreases the count of bogus votes.
Also, a bench headed by then Chief Justice of India, P Sathasivam said negative voting could bring about “a systemic change in polls and political parties will be forced to project clean candidates”.
5. ALL IN ALL, HOW DOES ONE CAST THEIR VOTE AS NOTA?
Simple. Electronic voting machines (EVM) have the ‘None Of The Above’ button at the bottom of the list of candidates.
Earlier, if one wished to cast a negative ballot, they had to go to the presiding officer at the polling booth. But NOTA has annulled that need. So, now you have one less excuse as to why you don’t wish to cast your vote.
The oft-stated argument against NOTA is that does not make any difference to electoral outcomes, and in a first-past-the-post system, it only benefits specific candidates at the expense of others.
It’s also a question of voter participation. What’s worse than frustration against political parties is disinterest and non-participation in the electoral process. In exercising the NOTA option, the voter is participating in the electoral process, and thus, democracy itself.
However, NOTA will serve no real purpose if the Election Commission has not yet framed any rules on its legal status if it trumps the candidate with the highest votes. There are no rules framed under the Representation of Peoples Act to decide what happens if NOTA gets the majority of votes. If NOTA votes polled are higher than the leading candidate, the latter still prevail under current rules.