None of the Above (NOTA)also known as “against all” or “scratch” vote, is a ballot option in some jurisdictions organizations, designed to allow the voter to indicate disapproval of all of the candidates in a voting system. It is based on the principle that consent requires the ability to withhold consent in an election, just as they can by voting no on ballot questions.
The countries which have implemented “None of the Above” on ballots as standard procedure include India (None of the Above), Greece (white, but unrelated to a political party of the similarly sounding name-however it is symbolic only), the U.S. state of Nevada (None of these candidates), Ukraine, Spain and Colombia. Russia had such an option on its ballots until it was abolished in 2006. Bangladesh introduced this option in 2008. Pakistan introduced this option on ballot papers for the 2013 Pakistan elections but later the Election Commission of Pakistan rejected this. Soviet Union In 1991 elections that led to the break up of the Soviet Union, the Soviet version of ‘none of the above’ led to new elections with new candidates in 200 races of the 1500 seat Congress of People’s Deputies. More than 100 incumbents representing the Communist Party of the Soviet Union were defeated in the run-off, leading to Boris Yeltsin to later say the ‘none of the above’ option ‘helped convince the people they had real power even in a rigged election, and played a role in building true democracy.’ Spain Due to the Spanish voting regulations, the blank ballot is recognized as None of the Above but has very little chance to influence the distribution of seats within a democratic election. It is mostly considered as statistical indicator of candidatures disapproval. The blank ballots only increase the amount of valid votes, rising up the threshold of votes, which every political party has to overcome to be fully considered.United States
United States The origination of the ballot option “None of the Above” in the United States can be traced to Isla Vista Municipal Advisory Council in its 1976 resolution to place this option on the official electoral ballot in Santa Barbara County in California. Then council members Walter Wilson and Matthew Landy Steen introduced the legal resolution to amend existing ballot options for elections from then on. In 1978 the state of Nevada adopted “None of the Above” as
a ballot option. In late 1999 in California, citizen proponents of Proposition 23, titled the ‘None of the Above Act’, qualified a new State ballot initiative through circulated petitions submitted to the Secretary of the State. It would have required this new ballot option for all state and federal elective offices, exempting only local judicial races, in determining official election results, the none of the above voter tally would be discarded in favor of the candidate with the greatest
number of votes.
India The Election Commission of India told Supreme Court in 2009 that it wished to offer the voter a ‘None of the Above’ option at the ballot, which was something that the government had generally opposed. The People’s Union for Civil Liberties, a non-governmental organization, filed a Public-Interest Litigation statement in support of this. The judges said that this ‘would lead to a systemic change in polls and political parties will be forced to project clean candidates.’
Chief Justice P. Sathasivam passed the order stating ‘Democracy is all about choices and voters will be empowered by this right of negative voting.’ None of the above (NOTA) choice differs radically from ‘Right to Reject’. Although the votes registered as NOTA are counted, they will not change the outcome of the election process. The Supreme Court ordered the Election Commission to provide a NOTA button on the voting machine which would give voters the option to choose ‘none of the above’. The Election Commission has said that the judgment will be implemented immediately. Although frequently termed as ‘right to reject’ in India, a former head of the Election Commission has noted that it is not in fact such a thing.
The Supreme Court of India ruling in September 2013 that a NOTA option must be implemented does not affect a campaign by the Aam Aadmi Party for RTR. The Aam Aadmi Party’s RTR concept is intended to allow a situation whereby if sufficient people vote to reject then the election is voided and a new election would be held. The bench headed by Chief Justice of India P. Sathasivam asked the Election Commission to make changes in voting machines and ballot papers, giving voters a ‘none of the above’ choice, and publicize this change widely. The court observed that negative voting would lead to systemic change in elections and political parties will be forced to project clean candidates. It also held that this will “foster purity and vibrancy in elections.”
Voters in Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram – where Assembly elections are due in November – will have the None of the Above option. Hitherto, if a voter goes to a polling booth and does not want to vote for any candidate, he can sign a register and come out. This system violates the right of secret ballot.There is also no provision yet to
There is also no provision yet to count the ‘rejection’ votes and these will not impact the result of the election. Activists have proposed that if more than 50 percent of those who vote reject all candidates; there should be are-election in that constituency. What is remarkable here is that the Election Commission had supported this stand.
It had recommended that the government amend rules to include this, but that had not been done. The Centre had opposed the proposal. It contended that an election is meant to elect and not to reject. It also argued that including a rejection button will confuse voters and will not serve any purpose. Until now, the option is not available to voters on ballot papers and EVMS. Voters so far had to register their option of NOTA in a register under Rule 49-O of the Conduct of Election Rules, thus compromising secrecy. Referring to another judgment by Apex Court on filling all columns in election affidavit, The Chief Election Commissioner Mr. Sampath said that it is obligatory for Returning Office (RO) to check whether the information required is fully furnished. Now if a candidate leaves any of the columns blank, the RO will issue him a notice to complete the affidavit. If the candidate fails to do so despite the notice, his nomination paper is liable to be rejected at the time of scrutiny. Also for the first time, Election Commission will now deploy ‘awareness observers’ who will oversee measures for voter facilitation with a view to motivate voters and increase turnout. Awareness observers will be deployed in two phases of seven days each and will monitor steps being taken by the election machinery to bridge the gap in people’s participation in the electoral process.
The new provision does not mean that all candidates in a constituency stand rejected or defeated if the number of NOTA votes exceeds the number garnered by the highest vote getter. Even if there 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. Anna Hazare had campaigned for ‘napasandi’ in elections during his campaign in 2011. The only difference is that the Hazare campaign for the right to reject also simultaneously demanded the use of a ‘totalizer’ system in counting, which means that no candidate can find out which polling booth he fared the worst in. This offers a more complete secrecy to voters.
Despite the drawbacks that one foresees in the execution of NOTA, what is important is that now voters cannot hide in their house saying that they do not support a particular candidate. It has now become their duty to exercise their right to cast vote even if it is against the list of candidates contesting elections.