None of the Above (NOTA), also known as “against all” or a “scratch” vote, is a ballot option in some jurisdictions or 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.
Entities that include “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),
Spain (voto en blanco), and
Colombia (voto en blanco).
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.
When None of the Above is listed on a ballot, there is the possibility of NOTA receiving a majority or plurality of the vote, and so “winning” the election. In such a case, a variety of formal procedures may be invoked, including having the office remain vacant, having the office filled by appointment, re-opening nominations or holding another election (in a body operating under parliamentary procedure), or it may have no effect whatsoever, as in the state of Nevada, where the next highest total wins regardless.
Timeline of NOTA in India (None of the above)
The Election Commission of India told the 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 organisation, filed a Public-interest litigation statement in support of this.
On 27 September 2013, the Supreme Court of India ruled that the right to register a “none of the above” vote in elections should apply, noting that it would increase participation. The judges said that this “would lead to a systemic change in polls and political parties will be forced to project clean candidates”. “Democracy is all about choices and voters will be empowered by this right of negative voting,” said the order passed by a bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam.
‘None of the above’ or ‘Right to reject’
The “none of the above” (NOTA) choice differs radically from “right to reject” (RTR). 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 judgement will be implemented immediately. Although frequently termed a “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 BJP today said, it welcomes the provision of None of the Above option in the Electronic Voting Machines during elections. Briefing reporters in New Delhi, party Vice President Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said that BJP State units have been asked to adhere to the norms of the new provisions regarding the information about the candidate and not to leave any column blank while filling up the nomination paper.
BJP leader L K Advani has said that the Election Commission should convene an all-party meeting for a purposeful debate on the option of a negative vote to voters. In his latest blog, he however added that along with this provision, voting should be made mandatory. Mr Advani pointed out that 31 countries have compulsory voting but only a dozen of them actually enforce it by having deterrent provisions for citizens who fail to vote without any justified reason.
The Election Commission has already said that “None Of The Above” or NOTA option will be there in the forthcoming Assembly elections to five states. The Supreme Court last week asked the Election Commission to make NOTA provision in the electronic voting machines.
The Election Commission has maintained that a candidate, who gets majority of votes will be declared elected even if the number of electors taking the option of None of the Above (NOTA) is higher. An official release said in New Delhi that the clarification has been issued in wake of the Supreme Court’s direction to provide NOTA provision to voters in the forthcoming Assembly elections. The Commission also made it clear that the NOTA will not be applicable in the case if only one candidate is in the fray. In this case the candidate will be elected. The Commission has quoted the provision of Representation of People Act in support of the direction.