How many of us have stood in front of the ballot thinking “Which party would I vote for”? It is quite a predicament for people who want to exercise their voting right. Choosing a lesser evil from the given option is always troublesome.
What is NOTA?
NOTA or “None of The Above”; a ballot option in some jurisdiction or organisation wherein the voter has the benefit to show his disapproval towards the candidate’s contesting in the voting system.
In other words, it a formal vote of protest, wherein you reject the prevailing parties and their ideologies that dominate the political system. By choosing this option, you are showing that you both care and pay attention, but are not happy with their activities.
NOTA in other countries:
The ballot option NOTA originated in the United States can be ascertained to when the State of Nevada adopted “None of These Candidates” option in the year 1976. Countries like the United States of America, Colombia, Ukraine, Brazil, Bangladesh, Finland, Spain, Sweden, Chile, France, Belgium and Greece acknowledged their voters to cast NOTA votes.
Depending upon the electoral system each country follows, the practical applicability of NOTA also varies. For example, in Sweden, voters choose between multiple ballots. Here to vote, they insert one in an envelope, they can select an utterly blank ballot instead of one with a party name. In the case of Ukraine, there are specific “none of the above” options available for the voters.
NOTA in India:
The option of NOTA was first introduced in India in the year 2009; Chhattisgarh was the initial state which gave the right of NOTA to the voters in the election of local self-government. NOTA button made its appearance in Assembly elections in 2013 in four States, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh and Delhi. Since its introduction, it has gained immense popularity, securing more votes than the victory margin. For example, in the Assembly Elections in Gujarat 2017, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan (2018). Speaking about the most recent instance, in the Indian general election 2019, about 1.04 per cent of the voters chose to vote for NOTA, with Bihar and Assam leading with 2.08 per cent NOTA voters.
Pros of NOTA option:
- The foremost aim of the ‘NOTA’ option is to provide voters with the right to exercise their freedom. It gives the right to an individual not to vote for any candidate.
- There is a possibility that the most eligible candidate gets elected. NOTA option will increase the polling percentage, as even people who do not want to cast a vote to candidates can choose NOTA.
- The voter must be able to file a vote of rejection if they feel that the contesting candidates do not deserve to serve a position. The right to vote given to all citizens must acknowledge the vote of disapproval.
- Even if the estimation of NOTA votes is a majority, that will not result in re-election or the voters enduring vacant. Moreover, at present, the law does not allow NOTA to substitute the votes included in support of candidates. Even if NOTA gets the majority of votes, the candidate who receives the second-highest votes wins the election.
“Negative voting will lead to a systemic change in polls, and political parties will be forced to project clean candidates. If the Right to vote is a statutory right, then the Right to reject a candidate is a fundamental right of speech and expression under the Constitution,” said P Sathasivam.
Although NOTA seems like an excellent option to the voters, it also has some cons connected to it.
Cons of NOTA:
- Many people think that the NOTA option is a waste of vote and a waste of time.
- If more than half the population of a country goes for NOTA, it merely means the elected winning candidate is not their choice. As per the rule, even if the number of NOTA vote is very high, still rather than going for re-election, the candidate who secured the second-highest votes will win. There is no rule in such a circumstance.
- In the case of the NOTA option, their vote won’t be secret. In other words, a person who decides to go for NOTA will have to inform the polling office before going for NOTA option. Whereas, if voting for any political parties, then the votes remain as a secret even from the polling officer.
- People choose whom to vote based on their knowledge and choices. If many people start choosing the NOTA option, others may begin questioning their decision. Thus, it will have a negative effect.
At times NOTA can be beneficial as it can prevent counterfeit voting or give protection from harassment. Generally, NOTA does not affect the election much. Few people think it is a waste of time, whereas many believe that such an option will protect a person’s right to choice in a democratic country. It is all based on how people perceive it. The political part has nothing to do with NOTA as they are all concerned about winning the election.