None of the above
“None Of The Above,” or NOTA for short, also known as “against all” or a “scratch” vote, is a ballot option in some jurisdictions or organizations, designed to allow the voter to indicate disapproval of all of the candidates in a voting system. It is based on the principle that consent requires the ability to withhold consent in an election, just as they can by voting “No” on ballot questions.
Entities that include "None of the Above" on ballots as standard procedure include India ("None of the above"), Greece (λευκό, white, but unrelated to a political party of the similar-sounding name—however, it is symbolic only), the U.S. state of Nevada (None of These Candidates), Ukraine (Проти всіх), Spain (voto en blanco), and Colombia (voto en blanco). Russia had such an option on its ballots (Против всех) until it was abolished in 2006. Bangladesh introduced this option (না ভোট) in 2008. Pakistan introduced this option on ballot papers for the 2013 Pakistan elections, but the Election Commission of Pakistan later rejected it. Beginning with the 2016 presidential election, Bulgaria introduced a 'none of the above' option, which received 5.59% of the vote in the first round and 4.47% in the run-off.
When “None of the Above” is listed on a ballot, there is the possibility of NOTA receiving a majority or plurality of the vote, and so "winning" the election. In such a case, a variety of formal procedures may be invoked, including having the office remain vacant, having the office filled by appointment, re-opening nominations or holding another election (in a body operating under parliamentary procedure), or it may have no effect whatsoever, as in India and the US state of Nevada, where the next highest total wins regardless.
In 1991, elections that led to the break-up of the Soviet Union, the Soviet version of "none of above" led to new elections with new candidates in 200 races of the 1,500-seat Congress of People's Deputies. More than 100 incumbents representing the Communist Party of the Soviet Union were defeated in the run-off, leading to Boris Yeltsin to later say the "none of the above" option "helped convince the people they had real power even in a rigged election, and [it] played a role in building true democracy."
Due to the Spanish voting regulations (legislación electoral española), (Spanish) the blank ballot is recognized as 'none of the above' (voto en blanco) but has very little chance to influence the distribution of seats within a democratic election. It is mostly considered as a statistical indicator of candidatures' disapproval. The blank ballots only increase the amount of valid votes, raising the threshold of votes (3% and 5% depending on the election) which every political party has to overcome to be fully considered. The parties over the threshold get their seats according to the D'Hondt method.
Blank seats (Escaños en blanco)
Since 1999, several political parties have arisen in order to make visible the 'none of the above' option in the parliaments and force empty seats. "Blank Seats" ran for the Congress and Senate elections of 20 November 2011. Its programme is to leave empty the corresponding assigned seats by not taking full possession of their duties as congressperson, senator, etc. According to law, the seat remains assigned to the elected candidate until the possession act takes place, the elected candidate explicitly refuses or new elections are called. In this way, the political party and its candidates stay free from obligations and are not entitled to receive any money from the public funding scheme for politics.
By voting such option at the local elections in May 2011, the citizens of the villages of Gironella (Barcelona) and Foixà (Girona) were able to reduce the number of politicians in their councils by one and two respectively. Overall, citizenship supported Blank Seats at different municipalities, including Barcelona, with 15,582 votes (averaging 1.71% of valid votes).
The Ciudadanos En Blanco (Citizens for Blank Votes) party aims to give blank ballots the meaning of representing empty seats if the votes indicate so as for any other party, disbanding the party when such law would be approved.
The origins of the ballot option "None of the Above" in the United States can be traced to when the State of Nevada adopted "None of These Candidates" as a ballot option in 1976. In 1998 in California, citizen proponents of Proposition 23, titled the "None of the Above Act," qualified a new State ballot initiative through circulated petitions submitted to the Secretary of State. But the measure was defeated in the March 2000 general election 64% to 36%. Were it to be passed by the voters, it was meant to require this new ballot option for all state and federal elective offices, exempting only local judicial races; in determining official election results, the "none of the above" voter tally would be discarded in favor of the candidate with the greatest number of votes.
No similar options were known to have been permitted, much less approved, on any other state levels, least of all the federal level, as of the middle of August 2016.
The Election Commission of India told the Supreme Court in 2009 that it wished to offer the voter a "none of the above" option on ballots, which the government had generally opposed. The People's Union for Civil Liberties, a non-governmental organisation, filed a public-interest litigation statement in support of this.
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.
The Election Commission also clarified that even though votes cast as NOTA are counted, they are considered as invalid votes so they will not change the outcome of the election process. They are not taken into account for calculating the total valid votes and will not be considered for determining the forfeiture of security deposit.
In the 2014 general election, NOTA polled 1.1% of the votes, counting to over 6,000,000.
UK electoral counting procedures require that all votes be counted and announced, including 'rejected' votes. 'Rejected votes' are classified into four categories, protest votes are recorded with others rejected as 'voter's intention uncertain'.
Above and Beyond
The Above and Beyond Party's sole policy is to introduce a "None of the Above" option on all UK ballot papers. The party was founded in 2015 and had 8 candidates in the 2015 General Election, none of whom were elected. The party has declared its target of winning 50,000 votes in the 2020 General Election.
No Candidate Deserves My Vote! party
No Candidate Deserves My Vote! was registered as a political party with the UK Electoral Commission on 23 November 2000. The No Candidate Deserves My Vote party's single objective is to introduce a bill to Parliament to have a "None of the above" option added to every local and general election ballot paper of the future. They feel this will allow the UK electorate to exercise their democratic right to vote to say that none of the parties currently represents them, which will encourage their democratic responsibility to turn out to vote. If a candidate wins an election it is the intention to stay as a Member of Parliament until the change in the law is enacted. Only then will the candidate step down and the party be disbanded.
It is the intention of the party that, if a NOTA gains the majority vote, it should cause an automatic by-election, the idea being that the majority will have given a Vote of No Confidence in the candidates. If the same candidates stand under the same policies, then the electorate simply votes NOTA until the candidates change their policies to something that the electorate can vote for.
The NOTA Party, in recent years also known as Notavote, was registered as a political party with the UK Electoral Commission on 2 March 2009. It was the intention of the NOTA party to field candidates in every UK parliamentary constituency. The respective NOTA candidates would not have continued in office had they received the most votes, this was merely a mechanism to simulate the recording of a formal NOTA vote. The party was registered as 'NOTA' and not 'None of the Above' as the latter is a prohibited expression regarding registration as a party name. A subsequent attempt to re-register the NOTA party in 2014 was blocked by the Electoral Commission on the grounds that the acronym 'NOTA' is as good as the phrase 'None of the Above', the logic being that it would confuse voters into thinking it is possible to cast a formal vote for 'None of the Above' when they would in fact just be voting for another party, albeit one standing on a single issue NOTA platform.
NOTA UK is a voluntary organisation set up in 2010 to campaign for a formal None Of The Above (NOTA) option to be added to ballot papers for all future UK elections. It has made numerous written evidence submissions to the parliamentary Political & Constitutional Reform Committee (PCRC) making the case for NOTA 'with teeth' i.e.: formalised consequences for the election result in the event of a NOTA 'win' (as opposed to 'faux' NOTA, whereby the next placed candidate takes office anyway as happens in India and elsewhere). As a result of these representations, the PCRC explicitly recommended in its final report on 'voter engagement', published February 2015, that the next UK government should hold a public consultation before May 2016 solely on inclusion of NOTA on UK ballot papers. This in turn has led to increased support for and awareness of NOTA UK's campaign and its founder, recording artist and music producer Jamie Stanley (aka: Mailman), being asked to give a number of media interviews.
VoteOrVoteNone is a radical new campaign in 2015 to inspire young voters, and to challenge the 34% who don't vote, to take part in the democratic process. The campaign call is Don't be silent. Vote for a candidate who you trust to work hard for things you believe in, or vote NONE in protest. The rationale is that by introducing the 'Vote None' option as a form of direct democratic action, there is no reason to be silent, and every reason to think about what to do.
Zero, None Of the Above
None Of The Above Zero was a candidate at the 2010 general election in Filton and Bradley Stoke. Previously known as Eric Mutch, he changed his name by deed poll to stand under that name. As candidates are listed by surname first he appeared on the ballot paper as "Zero, None Of The Above," in effect giving voters a none of the above option since had he been elected he would have resigned immediately. He came last with 172 votes.
In the British parliamentary elections of 2010, a former boxer changed his name by deed poll from Terry Marsh to "None Of The Above X", in order to run as a parliamentary candidate under that name in the constituency of South Basildon and East Thurrock. Claiming that he will not take the seat if he wins, he told BBC Essex: "I don't take it for one moment that it would be a vote for me. [..] I'm doing what I think the Electoral Commission should be doing and what should be on every ballot paper in any electoral process." BBC News reported that, while the Registration of Political Parties (Prohibited Words and Expressions) (Amendment) Order 2005 stipulates that no political party can be registered in the UK under the name "None of the Above", there is no legislation against a person changing their name by deed poll and appearing on the ballot paper as "None Of the Above". In the event he polled 0.3% of the vote, the lowest of any candidate standing.
- Another individual changed his name by deed poll to None Of The Above in order to stand as a candidate in Chingford and Woodford Green in 2010. With the surname Above, he was listed first on the ballot paper in alphabetical order, with all the other candidates listed below.
- The South Wales Anarchists group has run a campaign urging people to "Vote Nobody" since 2008 and many other anarchist groups worldwide have promoted similar slogans.
- The Landless Peasant Party, which advocates the ownership of land by those who live on it and the replacement of income tax by a flat land tax, and whose leader Derek Jackson gained publicity for standing against then- Prime Minister Gordon Brown in his home constituency in the 2010 elections, include a pledge to add a "None of the above" option to the ballot in all UK elections.
None of the Above candidates and parties in other countries
- In Serbia, None of the above (Ниједан од понуђених одговора, НОПО) is a parliamentary political party, legally formed in 2010, which was mostly popularized on Facebook and less on other social networking websites. In Serbian parliamentary election, 2012 they received 22,905 votes, and thus won one seat in the National Assembly of Serbia. Serbian NOTA aspires to form an international political movement not so much based on ideology but rather on a common goal – fight against all corrupt politicians.
- A Prince George businessman ran in the June 2, 1997 Canadian election in the district of Prince George-Bulkley Valley under the name Zznoneoff, Thea Bove (Thea Bove Zznoneoff); ballots listing candidates alphabetically by surname, he appeared at the bottom. He came sixth of seven candidates with 0.977 percent of votes cast.
- In Canada it is also possible to vote for "none of the above" by attending the polling station and formally "Declining to vote" - explained here. These Declined votes are actually counted and become part of the electoral record.
- Geoff Richardson changed his full name to "Of The Above None" and stood as an independent for the seat of Gilmore at the 2007 Australian federal election. His name appeared as NONE, Of the Above on the ballot.
- In Ukrainian presidential election, 2010, a candidate Vasiliy Humeniuk changed his name to Vasily Protyvsih (Vasily Against-all). "Against all candidates" is the name of the "none of the above" vote used in Russia and Ukraine.
- In 2000, Michael Moore advocated a write-in candidate Ficus (the plant) for Congress as a unified vote for none of the above in congressional seats where the incumbent was running unopposed.
- David Gatchell of Tennessee ran for governor in 2002 and for Senate in 2006 as a protest, officially changing his middle name from Leroy to None of the Above. In 2006, he got 3,738 votes (0.2 percent).
- For the 2013 Pakistani general election, the Election Commission of Pakistan unilaterally decided that a ‘none of the above’ box will be available as a voting option on ballot papers during this election. However, they subsequently decided against it owing to the short amount of time remaining till the elections.
- In Pakistan, Abid Hassan Manto, who is a constitutional expert and a senior lawyer of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, had sent the proposal to Election Commission of Pakistan to allow "none of the above" (NOTA) mechanism in vote casting.
- Elections in South Ossetia have an "against all" option.
Procedures that function like "none of the above"
Most ballots do not have a formal "none of the above" option, but do have procedures that work in a similar way.
In 1989 legislative election in Poland voters were able to vote against the only candidate running, often from the ruling Polish United Workers' Party by crossing out the candidate's name on the ballot. As a result, voters defeated the sitting prime minister and dozens of leading Communists because they failed to get the required majority.
Re-open Nominations (RON)
Many students' unions in Britain, Ireland, and others use a similar ballot option called 're-open nominations' (RON) in IRV (also known as the alternative vote) and single transferable vote (STV) elections. These include the National Union of Students in the UK and UCD Student's Union in Ireland. The difference is that RON is a vote against all candidates in FPTP (first-past-the-post) and all subsequent candidates in an IRV or STV election.
There are several ways of dealing with a RON candidate. In a single member constituency or election to a single position RON is treated as a normal candidate. If re-open nominations is deemed elected to any position then at the end of the count that position is declared vacant and nominations must later be re-opened for that position.
In a multi-member constituency there are two approaches. In the first, when a RON candidate is elected, all other candidates below RON are declared not to be elected and the counting process stops, the election is then re-run for that and all other unfilled positions. In the second, RON is elected to a position, then any surplus is transferred to another RON(2) candidate as if such an option had been presented on the ballot paper. If RON(2) is elected, then the process carries on with RON(3), RON(4) candidates and so on until all seats are filled. This is sometimes called the Stack RON method.
RON is not strictly a none of the above candidate in transferable vote elections, as when RON is eliminated during the count its votes are transferred to other candidates if those preferences exist.
Illegal ballots in Robert's Rules of Order
The American Robert's Rules of Order, Newly Revised (RONR) describes various forms of illegal ballots, which are ballots which do not count for any candidate. Blanks are treated as "scrap paper," and are of no effect, but "unintelligible ballots or ballots cast for an unidentifiable candidate or a fictional character are treated as illegal votes. All illegal votes cast by legal voters… are taken into account in determining the number of votes cast for purposes of computing the majority." RONR always requires a majority for election; thus, casting an illegal ballot or one for a hopeless candidate, whether on the ballot or as a write-in, is equivalent to voting No for all other candidates. "The principle is that a choice has no mandate from the voting body unless approval is expressed by more than half of those entitled to vote and registering any evidence of having some opinion."
- In the film Brewster's Millions, the protagonist Brewster (played by Richard Pryor) is required under certain conditions, to spend 30 million dollars in 30 days. He joins the race for Mayor of New York City and throws most of his money at a protest campaign urging a vote for None of the Above. The two major candidates sue Brewster for his confrontational rhetoric, leading to a massive settlement which of course furthers their competitor's goal. Brewster is forced to end his campaign when he learns that he is leading in the polls as a write-in candidate and has to publicly announce that he if he won the mayoralty he wants to decline it but is surprised his "None of the Above" campaign became so popular. Neither candidate wins the election, and a new election with different candidates must be held.
- In the sixth-season episode of Captain Planet called "Dirty Politics" three of the Eco-Villains are running for president and kidnap the fourth candidate, who is the most popular. Despite this over seventy percent vote None of the Above resulting in the need for a new election.
- L. Neil Smith's novel The Probability Broach has an alternate history in which the United States becomes a libertarian state after a successful Whiskey Rebellion and the overthrowing and execution of George Washington by firing squad for treason in 1794, where None of the Above (which is always an option on the ballot) has received the most votes for President of the North American Confederacy on two occasions. The first time was in 1968, defeating Lucy Kropotkin and would serve until 1972 as the NAC's 24th President. The second time was in 2000 and again in 2004 and being elected "President for Life" in 2008, serving as the 28th President.
- Wavy Gravy has run a "Nobody for President" campaign during several different election years in the United States.
- In 1983, author Harlan Ellison wrote a screenplay for a film, based on the novel Bug Jack Barron by Norman Spinrad, to be directed by Constantin Costa-Gavras for Universal Pictures. The project went nowhere. In 2012, Ellison published this screenplay, titled "None of the Above," including casting suggestions that had Martin Sheen as Jack Barron and Sigourney Weaver as Sara. The "none of the above" element was introduced into the story by Ellison; it is not present in Spinrad's novel.
- Abstention (non-voting)
- Election boycott
- None of These Candidates
- Write-in candidate
- Protest vote
- Tactical voting
- Motion of no confidence
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- NOTA UK campaigning for real and lasting electoral reform in the UK since 2010
- Rainbow Coalition - NOTA on Ballot - Random Selection of Man & Woman from pool of NOTA electorate following first past the post win
- Voters for None of the Above
- Green Party of California v. Jones (1995) [registration required]
- None of the Above DNC Parody Site
- Website of Geoff Robinson, aka Of the Above None
- None Of The Above - Tennessee
- NOTA party UK
- Escons en Blanc - Blank Seats, Spain
- Movimiento Ciudadano por el Voto en Blanco Computable - Escaños en Blanco (Citizens' Movement for the Blank Counting Ballot - Blank Seats) Spain
- No Candidate Deserves My Vote! party uk
- Campaign for a None of the Above option
- Campaign for a None of the Above option in Uruguay
- "Declining to vote" in Canada