Sunday, December 13, 2015

NOTA: An Overview

This is an attempt to explain NOTA in simple terms. I tried to keep the article strictly to topic because NOTA discussion tends to take us to other issue. Those issue needs to be discussed but this is not the article to it. I welcome all views and debates. If I there are any spelling or grammatically mistake, bear with me. I am blogging after long time and I felt that out of touch while doing this topic.

I urge all of you if possible to go through this document, Supreme court order judgement copy when it declared NOTA should be added in Electronic Voting Machine (EVM). Wherever I say, supreme court order, I am referring from this document.

NOTA? What it is?

NOTA abbreviate to “None of the Above”. It gives voters a right to “Not to Vote”, an option (button) present in the voting machine for voters to cast negative voting during elections. But these negative votes are discarded during counting process as invalid votes, (i.e.) it has no bearing on the outcome of that constituency election.
Symbol of NOTA in Electronic Voting Machine
NOTA Symbol in Electronic Voting Machine
For example: In Arcot constituency, total of 10000 votes got polled.
1) 9900 people voted for NOTA - marked as invalid.
2) 80 people voted in favor of candidate X.
3) 20 people voted in favor of candidate Y.

So out of 100 votes, Candidate X got more votes and by it, he/she will be declared as winner. There is no re-election or there any handicaps in the rights Candidate X can normally posses. Because there is no provision of negative voting exists in our constitutional law, in fact RP (Representation of People) Act states, “Election is only a means of choice or election between various candidates to fill a seat” and “Candidate who gets more valid votes shall be declared as winner”.

What was the need for NOTA, then?


1) Secrecy of voters choice in election:

This was the first and foremost reason for introduction of NOTA button in voting machine. Before NOTA, voter can exercise “Not to vote” through two methods: 49O and ballot paper tricks.
  • 49O - voter has to fill form 17A (details of voter) and has to mention why he decided not to vote.
  • Ballot Paper - It’s a normal paper with candidate name & symbol printed in it. In polling booth, voter had to cross mark “X” over the symbol/name on the ballot paper and put it into ballot box. So, if any votes decides to not to vote for any candidate. He/ She can simply put the ballot paper inside the box without any cross mark in it. In booth, it will be counted as vote but while counting, that vote will be discarded as invalid since the ballet paper of the person has no cross mark in it.
Both methods had maintained the secrecy of voter choice as per our constitutional law. But since Election Commission started using electronic voting machine (EVM), ballot papers are discarded and 49O method exposes the voters choice of “Not to vote” in the polling room. In EVM method, a beep sound will be heard whenever the voter presses a button on voting machine in that room. So, if you choose 49O, there will be no sound and hence, voter is exposed to party members/ public present in that room of his choice which might invite problem to him/her.

Now, with the introduction of NOTA, voter can press that button in EVM and beep sound will be heard (sign of valid vote). No one knows unless until voter exposes himself of his choice of voting.

Note: NOTA button will always be present in the EVM. If there are 32 candidates contesting, EVM will have 33 buttons: 32 buttons, each for one candidate and plus one for NOTA.

2) Democracy as per our constitutional law

I would like you all to read the earlier stated RP Act law again and put special emphasis on bolder part, “Election is only a means of choice or election between various candidates to fill a seat”.

Article 19 - 22 in our constitution, deals with right to freedom. These constitutional law guarantees all individuals the right to speak, criticize, and disagree on a particular issue. It stands on the spirit of tolerance and allows people to have diverse views, ideas and ideologies. Not allowing a person to cast vote negatively defeats the very freedom of expression and the right ensured.

Every person who is present in electoral roll in Y constituency must be able to vote in that constituency during election. Just because he/she chooses “Not to Vote” or believes none of the candidate worthy of his/her vote, shall not be deprived from expressing his/her views and same being heard. And NOTA fill this gap for voters.

3) Increased participation in electoral process

So many people decides not to vote for various reasons. But if voter decides not to vote due to following reasons like no trust in government, candidates are not worthy, dissatisfied in election process, want to protest by abstaining from voting, then they get law endorsed method of doing it called NOTA.

49O method is not well known and involves many processes which may irritate voters. Our constitution felt (based on Supreme court order), NOTA simplifies the process voter go through for right to “Not to Vote” and at same time presents legitimate option to voice their choice which whole world come to know during counting process.

4) Government is for and by the people

Quoting from Supreme Court order statement will be apt to explain this,
a) In a vibrant democracy, the voter must be given an opportunity to choose none of the above (NOTA) button, which will indeed compel the political parties to nominate a sound candidate.
b) By providing NOTA button in the EVMs, it will accelerate the effective political participation in the present state of democratic system and the voters in fact will be empowered.
c) Furthermore, a provision of negative voting would be in the interest of promoting democracy as it would send clear signals to political parties and their candidates as to what the electorates think about them.

5) Reducing Illegal/Impersonate/Bogus votes

By providing NOTA and not enforcing voter who come to polling booth that they must choose anyone of the contesting candidates, Election Commission expects people who stay away from casting vote will exercise atleast NOTA and thereby can minimize or even eradicate practice of bogus voting.

Why I should choose NOTA?

You must be the change, you want to be 
1) Supreme Court judges nailed the reason what can happen choosing NOTA, “an option gives the voter the right to express his disapproval with the kind of candidates that are being put up by the political parties. When the political parties will realize that a large number of people are expressing their disapproval with the candidates being put up by them, gradually there will be a systemic change and the political parties will be forced to accept the will of the people and field candidates who are known for their integrity.

2) Contesting candidates must be credible enough to be people representatives.  

3) Make your vote invaluable. If you feel none of the candidates are worthy of your vote, you should choose NOTA and exercise your constitutional right to vote, thereby becoming good citizen too.

4) Will encourage and can provide a way for educated youngsters/new parties/new ideology in the election.  How? You may ask, simple answers is, most of Indian political situation is such giving a feeling that it doesn’t encourage new alternatives from existing parties available in that state/place. When someone sees so many people of not happy (higher % of NOTA), he/she may be encouraged that people are ready for new alternatives. Delhi state election (AAP party, how its functioning is irrelevant to the topic) will not be seen as one of incidence. It doesn’t even have to be party, it can be educated youngster standing for ward member in his/her street, village president in his/her village, counselor in his/her area. All revolution starts in from small change.


After all this, from my personal view, one more point for what may happen with NOTA, I know many of you thinking, even if I vote for NOTA, X party/candidate will win election and nothing will change. Well, kind of but can’t say nothing will change if you vote for NOTA. Who knows it might be you just before the next election thinking same kind of governance happened and nothing changed, last time higher % of votes are for NOTA in my street/village/area/constituency, this time if I stand and explain people about my plan, people will listen because they are fed up with these parties.

Because for long, youngsters neglected elections because they can't stand against these parties (reasons well known) and people are bound to these party that people generally vote based on fanfare, money, caste, well known, monetary benefits and not the least on credibility of the candidate. If more people are voting for NOTA means, its time for youngsters with integrity and credibility to step up.

And to those saying I will stick to “choosing better among worst options available”, this method will lead to poorer democracy and worst situation. Supreme Court order statement emphasis certainly why you should not choose better among the worst and with that I sign off,

For democracy to survive, it is essential that the best available men should be chosen as people’s representatives for proper governance of the country. This can be best achieved through men of high moral and ethical values, who win the elections on a positive vote. Thus in a vibrant democracy, the voter must be given an opportunity to choose none of the above (NOTA) button, which will indeed compel the political parties to nominate a sound candidate. This situation palpably tells us the dire need of negative voting.

Vishnu Kumar,