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Does NOTA matter at all?

By Sheetal Prakash & Diya Thampi
|

Bengaluru, May 23: NOTA or 'None of the Above' has been provided as an option to the voters of India in most elections. Through the usage of NOTA, a citizen can choose not to vote for any candidates who are contesting the elections. However, NOTA in India does not guarantee the dismissal of the winning candidate. Therefore, it's only a method to give negative feedback. NOTA does not hold any electoral value i.e. even if the maximum votes are for NOTA, the candidate with maximum vote share will still be the winner.

Does NOTA matter at all?

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, and ordered the Election Commission to provide such a button in the electronic voting machines, noting that it would increase participation. NOTA was first used in India in 2009, Chhattisgarh was the first State to give the option of NOTA to the voters in the local government elections.

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The specific symbol for NOTA, a ballot paper with a black cross across it, was introduced on 18 September 2015. The symbol is designed by the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad.

NOTA was introduced so that candidates can exercise their right to reject without violation of the secrecy of their decision. In many constituencies, votes received by NOTA have been higher than the margin by which the candidate has won. Observations have been made that NOTA can influence more citizens to participate in voting, though there is a danger that the novelty factor associated with NOTA will gradually erode.

Before the NOTA option came in existence, people casting negative votes were required to enter their names in a register and cast their votes 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 SC as it did not protect the identity of the voter.

In all elections held between 2013 and 2017, NOTA secured a total of 1.33 core votes, according to an analysis done by Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), a non-governmental electoral and research organization, in 2018.

It is a neutral vote which isn't counted towards the final tally, thereby making it distinct from a negative vote.

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