NEW DELHI—Indians have a new choice when they go to the polls: None of the above.
On Friday, the Supreme Court said voters in the world’s largest democracy have the right to disapprove all candidates on the ballot, a step that could put pressure on parties to field better-qualified politicians.
“This judgment allows people to send a clear message to political parties,” said Mahi Pal Singh, national secretary of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, which had petitioned the court for the change.
Activists said they hope the court’s ruling—ahead of five state elections this year and national polls due by the end of May—is a first step toward the establishment of a broader “right to reject.”
Excellent news. Bear in mind:
Nearly a third of the members of the lower house of Parliament are facing criminal charges, according to the Association for Democratic Reforms, a New Delhi-based advocacy group for transparency in governance.
Even if that were not the case, however, one of the problems of democracy is that there is too little feedback and information transmission, due both to rational ignorance and the bundle nature of politics. Allowing for “none of the above” provides, not a panacea, but a little bit more feedback. Many people vote but have to hold their noses to do so. Many others don’t vote but do they not vote because they are satisfied or dissatisfied? None of the above gives the dissatisfied a chance to reveal their views and in so doing it may encourage more and better candidates.
At present, voting none of the above is just informational, i.e. none of the above is never “elected” even if it gets a majority, although the option to vote NOTA may change the outcome of the election. In the future a NOTA majority might signal a new election.
India is the world’s largest democracy. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
Hat tip: Reuben Abraham