Four years, one Lok Sabha election and four rounds of Assembly elections have passed since the introduction of ‘None of The Above’ (NOTA) option in the Indian electoral system. The 2016 Assembly elections also saw some active canvassing for NOTA, which allows voters to express their dissent against all the contestants. In Kerala, a group of women activists hit the road urging people not to elect any candidate if no woman was present in the fray. In Tamil Nadu, a youth group campaigned for NOTA as a protest vote against corruption.
What is NOTA?
The Supreme Court, in September last year, upheld the right of voters to reject all candidates contesting the elections, saying it would go a long way in cleansing the political system of the country. The apex court directed the Election Commission to have an option of ‘None Of The Above’ (NOTA) on the electronic voting machines (EVMs) and ballot papers in a major electoral reform.
How is a NOTA vote cast?
The EVMs have the NOTA option at the end of the candidates’ list. Earlier, in order to cast a negative ballot, a voter had to inform the presiding officer at the polling booth. A NOTA vote doesn’t require the involvement of the presiding officer.
Dear @narendramodi ji congratulations for taking bold decisions and putting Indian economy and ppl’s life on right path in short spans of 4 yrs.
Only thing left is to wake up Hindus’ conscience so that they don’t indirectly help evil forces by choosing NOTA in elections. https://t.co/9qXtMBiupL
— LegendaryMusashi (@LegendMusashi) May 26, 2018
When was NOTA first used in India; how did it fare?
The NOTA option was first used in the assembly elections held in five states last year. More than 15 lakh people exercised the option in the state’s polls. The figure, however, was lower than 1.5% of the total voters. Around 50,000 voters opted for NOTA in Delhi; 3.56 lakh in Chhattisgarh; 5.9 lakh in Madhya Pradesh and 5.67 lakh in Rajasthan.
Before the NOTA option came in existence, people casting negative votes were required to enter their names in a register and cast their vote on a separate paper ballot.
Under Section 49 (O) of the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961, a voter could enter his electoral serial number in Form 17A and cast a negative vote. The presiding officer would then put a remark in the form and get it signed by the voter. This was done to prevent fraud or misuse of votes.
This provision was, however, deemed unconstitutional by the SC as it did not protect the identity of the voter.
I would like to think not but given what has been happening in elections inc Karnataka and other by-polls, people talking about NOTA etc, I am no longer sure what people will doing anymore. I would like to think that the Indian voters will see past all this BS & pick right party
— BP (@Bharatp1) June 17, 2018
What difference does NOTA make?
A senior EC official said the NOTA option would not impact the results of the elections. “The NOTA option on EVMs has no electoral value. Even if the maximum number of votes cast is for NOTA, the candidate getting the most of the remaining votes would be declared a winner,” the EC official told HT.
Why have NOTA if there’s ‘no electoral value’?
The SC said negative voting would even encourage people who are not satisfied with any of the candidates to turn up to express their opinion and reject all contestants.
“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 a bench headed by then Chief Justice of India, P Sathasivam.
The bench also pointed out that the system of negative voting existed in several other countries. Even in Parliament, the MPs have the option to abstain during a vote.
How are 49(O) and NOTA different?
The Section 49 (O) stood annulled after the SC cleared the NOTA provision. It gave the poll officials a chance to find out the reason behind the rejection of a candidate through the voter’s remarks in Form 17A. Through NOTA, the officials cannot find out the reason for the rejection. Moreover, it protects the identity of a voter, thus keeping the concept of secret balloting intact.
From next elections
I eat biriyani and I drink beer of political leaders.. i give publicity if I can.. but I don't vote any of them.. i use #NOTA button. (Except sarpanch elections)
— Reddisaab (@aSouthIndian) July 31, 2018
Which other countries allow NOTA?
Colombia, Ukraine, Brazil, Bangladesh, Finland, Spain, Sweden, Chile, France, Belgium and Greece allow their voters to cast NOTA votes. The US also allows it in a few cases. The state of Texas in the US permits the provision since 1975. The option, however, has faced opposition there.
NOTA cleared, politicians want compulsory voting now
Leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Narendra Modi and LK Advani, welcomed the NOTA provision. They, however, asked for another ‘electoral reform’. Both leaders said voting should be made mandatory.
“Voters, who without any legitimate justification, have not been exercising the valuable right of franchise the Indian Constitution has conferred on them have, unwittingly thus, been casting a negative vote against all the contesting candidates without intending to do so,” Advani wrote in a blog.
“I hold, therefore, that a negative vote would become really meaningful if it is accompanied also by the introduction of mandatory voting,” he added.
Sir a humble request to you about the electoral issues.If you are a true indian and a well wisher for the development of our nation,then please consider the NOTA Option in elections.This will show the public opinion on the candidates in election @narendramodi
— Jainam Gandhi (@JainamG52369765) June 1, 2018
Using ‘NOTA’, in a lighter vein
Having withdrawn from the contest for the Chandigarh Lok Sabha seat as the AAP candidate Savita Bhatti, comedian Jaspal Bhatti’s widow and actor recently floated the ‘NOTA Party’ with a wad of currency notes being its election symbol. Bhatti said the party was inspired by the NOTA option given to voters.
“With every party claiming to target corruption, we are wondering where the corrupt will go? So we have decided that our party will offer a platform for only the corrupt. They are highly skilled and people with great networking. So their strengths need to be utilised,” Savita took a dig at the launch.
Yawn indeed. NOTA is an useless option in Indian elections. You had rather not take the trouble to go and vote than vote NOTA.
— extremist (@extremist) May 12, 2018