Lok Sabha election 2019: All you need to know about NOTA
The Election Commission added the NOTA button on the EVMs as the last option on the voting panel after the Supreme Court order in September 2013. NOTA was exercised by nearly 60 lakh people in the Lok Sabha election held in 2014.Updated: Mar 20, 2019 20:07 IST
The none of the above or NOTA option on electronic voting machines (EVMs) allows voters to exercise their right to disapprove of all the candidates contesting the elections.
The Election Commission added the NOTA button on the EVMs as the last option on the voting panel after the Supreme Court order in September 2013. NOTA was exercised by nearly 60 lakh people in the Lok Sabha election held in 2014.
NOTA also has its own symbol: A ballot paper with a black cross across it.
Here’s all you need to know about NOTA.
What is NOTA?
The Supreme Court in September 2013 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 top court directed the Election Commission to have an option of NOTA on 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.
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 in 2013. More than 15 lakh people exercised the option in the state 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.
What was a similar provision before NOTA?
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 Supreme Court as it did not protect the identity of the voter.
What difference does NOTA make?
The NOTA option does 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 the winner,” an election commission official said.
Why have NOTA if there’s ‘no electoral value’?
The Supreme Court had 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?
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.
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.
In recent elections:
The NOTA appeared to have outperformed several political parties, including the AAP and Samajwadi Party, which contested the assembly polls in the five states in December last year.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which fielded its candidates on 85 seats out of 90 seats in Chhattisgarh, got 0.9% of votes while NOTA votes were 2.1% of the counted votes in the state. Samajwadi Party and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) got 0.2% votes each in Chhattisgarh. The Communist Party of India (CPI) got 0.3% votes in the state.
In Madhya Pradesh, NOTA votes were 1.5% of the total counted votes. The Samajwadi Party got 1.01% while AAP got 0.7% votes.
The NOTA votes in Rajasthan elections were 1.3%. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) and SP got 1.2% and 0.2% votes respectively. The AAP and Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) received 0.4% and 0.3% votes each in the state.
In Telangana assembly polls, NOTA got 1.1% of votes while NCP got 0.1% of votes. The CPI(M) polled 0.4% votes while CPI received 0.4% votes.
In Mizoram, NOTA got 0.5% of votes while People’s Represent for Identity and Status of Mizoram (PRISM) got 0.2% of votes.