The Supreme court of India, in 2013 ruled that the right to register a “none of the above” vote in elections should apply while ordering the Election Commission of India (ECI) to provide a button for the same in the electronic voting machines.
NOTA means “None of the Above” option which enables the voter to officially register a vote of rejection for all candidates who are contesting. If a voter chooses to press NOTA on the EVM, it indicates that the voter has not chosen to vote for any of the party.
In the 2014 Loksabha Elections as many 1.07% of the votes were as NOTA and the highest were polled in Belagavi Dakshin – 1.43%, followed by Ramdurg – 1.3%.
|AC||Valid Votes||NOTA Votes Polled||%|
|Valid Postal Ballots||810||2||0.25|
|Voter Turn Out||68.25%|
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.
The main objective of the ‘NOTA’ option is to enable electors who do not wish to vote for any of the candidates to exercise their right to reject without violation of the secrecy of their decision. The voter must be eligible to register a vote of rejection if they feel that the contesting candidates do not deserve to be voted for. The Right to vote granted to all citizens must allow the vote of disapproval.
2. DOES NOTA WORK AS A ‘REJECT TO ALL CANDIDATES’ OPTION?
It has been argued that NOTA is not ‘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”.
3. DOES NOTA VOTE COUNT?
The Election Commission clarified that votes caste 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 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.
Before the introduction of EVMs, when voting was done through ballot papers, voters had the choice to put the ballot paper without marking against any candidate thus rejecting all candidates. This vote was counted as NOTA. All contesting candidates for a constituency had the option of filing Form 49-O at a voting booth but this compromised the secrecy of the ballot.
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.
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 prevails under current rules.