Saturday, 7 February 2015

Why NOTA is an option we can do without...

The Supreme Court ruled to include the option of NOTA in all ballot systems. NOTA of None of the above is the right of voters to reject all candidates in an election. NOTA is considered as an alternative to an earlier procedure to reject a candidate – Section 49(O), Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961. The voter had to inform the presiding officer and ask for Form 17A to cast his negative vote, which incidentally revealed the voter’s identity. NOTA keeps the very basic principle of secret balloting intact.

However, the overall impact of introducing NOTA on the election result is zero. Naught. Nil. Which is why it seems to be as good as an option as a non-existent one. First of all, NOTA has no electoral value. A senior EC official has said that even if the maximum share of votes is for NOTA, the winning candidate will be chosen based on the rest of the votes. For instance, if two candidates A and B receive 20% and 30% of the total votes respectively and the NOTA’s share is 40%, candidate B takes home the crown because NOTA’s 40% vote share amounts to nothing.

The only thing that NOTA contributes to is the reduction of the total significant votes, not impacting the outcome of the election whatsoever. If someone is adamant on pressing the NOTA button, his/her contribution to the election will be as good if he/she didn’t even turn up to vote. It is highly unlikely for a significant majority to stand in long queues just to reject all the candidates when in the end their vote may not pose any threat to the election of that very candidate they rejected. It’s pretty much like working on a project with all your devotion knowing it won’t matter at all.

The main objective of democracy is to give citizens the power to choose a candidate of their choice. If every voter choses to reject all candidates, no one will get elected which defeats the purpose of an election. Such a situation of rejection of candidates by everyone will result in empty seats, null elections and will lead to re-election, which will consume a major chunk out of the taxpayer’s money.

NOTA could have been a significant election reform had it been negative voting. In a society where selfless favors are a rare occurrence, it’s doesn’t make a good choice to provide the option to reject all options available. It is highly irregular that someone would reserve a table at a fancy restaurant just to look at the menu and reject all the options available.

NOTA essentially is equivalent to flipping off all the political candidates in their face. But we do that on social media all through the year nevertheless.

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