As per the conduct of Election Rules-1961, rule number 49-0 says that if a registered voter decides not to vote, he has to inform this to the poll officer. This entry was recorded in Form-17A with the signature of the presiding officer. The person is required to register his name and other people would also know that he’s exercising his power, thus, no secrecy. The question was that if a voter wants to have privacy what will one do?
It was in 2009 when the Election Commission of India approached the Supreme Court with a request to offer the ‘None Of The Above’ (NOTA) option in the ballot box. Since 2013 the NOTA option is there in the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). NOTA is a ballot option which was designed to allow the electorate to highlight their disapproval of all the candidates. The citizens who don’t wish to vote are also encouraged to declare that they don’t find any candidate deserving of the vote. Through NOTA not only the right to vote is exercised but also the secrecy is maintained.
With the introduction of NOTA, India became the 14th country to establish negative voting. However, NOTA in India don’t provide with a ‘right to reject’ the candidate. Hence, it’s only a means of giving a negative feedback. NOTA would have no electoral value because even if the maximum casted votes are for NOTA the aspirant with the most of the remaining votes would be the proclaimed winner.
Then why have NOTA?
According to the apex court, negative voting would hearten the people who are not pleased with the contenders to express their opinion. Articulating apathy and not participating in the election process isn’t right. Through NOTA, the electorate will participate in the elections and consequently, democracy itself.
The NOTA graph:
Nonetheless, NOTA polling figures are small.
Assembly Elections were held in four states in 2013 and NOTA constituted 1.85 of the totalled pulled votes.
In the 2014 Assembly elections in 8 states, it dropped to 0.95%.
Laddering up the graph, it increased to 2.02% in the 2015 Delhi Assembly Elections. Bihar witnessed 2.49% of NOTA votes, being the highest polled till date in any State in Assembly Elections.
The advantages of NOTA:-
- The parties realizing that a huge number of voters are expressing their disapproval with the candidate, the political parties will be compelled to project only the honest and clean candidates.
- The people who try to influence the public through their wealth & muscle power and also lower down to unethical practices to win the elections will now be discouraged to do the same. Also, now when we have the electoral bonds in function that aims to instil transparency in the political funding, the collected money will be used wisely instead of being used for unrighteousness activities.
- NOTA ensure people’s right to freedom of speech and expression. The electorate will leave the hint of their disappointment that they don’t find any candidate as a deserving one.
- The disadvantage of 49-O, which is the threat to privacy, will be overcome with the implementation of NOTA.
- This will increase the polling percentage as the voters will be encouraged to put across their disappointment in secrecy.
The disadvantages of NOTA:-
- Even if the large section of the voter’s votes for NOTA, the subsequent highest majority contender will be elected. This doesn’t give the likelihood to reject and debar the candidates.
- Voters might feel like why they should stand in a long queue to vote for NOTA when it doesn’t affect the results. The votes will not be counted and will further be considered ‘invalid’.
- When the supreme court directed the option to be implemented, it did not suggest any remedy to the results that it would lead to. If the percentage of NOTA votes is more than 50%, the election shall be annulled and a re-election shall be organized with a fresh list of contenders. But the court hasn’t as well pointed that for how long the rejected contestants shall remain forbidden or if they can fight elections from other constituencies?
- When an election is called off due to a huge section of voters choosing none of the above, will it be justice even when a sincere candidate gets turned down? This is eventually possible because the negative vote is a vote against all the aspirants.
To date, only a small number of Indian voters have accepted NOTA option as an opportunity to voice their dissent. Despite the fact that NOTA option will have no upshot on the results, it is still a worthy step because people will, at any case, will be given the right to express their outlook regarding the candidates. This option will undeniably become a momentous way of negative voting given that it becomes a ‘right to reject’ rather than turning out just to be a symbolic medium to convey bitterness the way it now is.