None of the Above Wins!

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


This sounds great. But what happens when nobody gets elected? And can groups potentially manipulate this to further their own agenda?

As is often said around here, "solve for the equilibrium".

Some information added. Thx.

Because it can't win, voting "None of the Above" is identical to not voting at all. So the eventual effect will be nothing, except perhaps reducing effective voter turnout (because "None of the Above" gives you a way to not vote while still fulfilling your civic duty of voting).

Imagine how great it'd be if a politician needed votes from a majority of eligible voters to win.

The government would always be empty. Heaven on earth.

. "Democracy" (i.e., 'majoritarianism' or 'Collectivism-Lite') has many major problems. Representative-Democracy just further aggravates those problems.

How can someone you did NOT vote for ... truly be said to 'represent' you ?

How can someone ethicaly take 'democratically-elected' office if the overwhelming majority of the electorate did NOT vote for that person ?

{e.g. ... say hello to President Obama-- 70% of the American Electorate (VEP) did NOT vote for OBAMA in November 2012 }


India perhaps is making small progress, but American elections remain a huge sham.

Gaming this out.. for the most part, I get to vote D, R, or N- however, N can't win. Assuming a plurality for D or R wins.

Scenario I: I'm a D politician in a disaffected district. People will vote for me compared to an R. However, in my district, 'NotA' (none of the above) will take a lot of votes. Possibly enough that if the R folks are concerted enough, to allow the R (what would normally be the last choice) to win. Therefore, the D will work harder to ensure more support levels- probably among those already most loyal, and the Rs will work harder to win, most likely with their base, net win, it seems.

Scenario II: I'm a D politician and most of the R vote in my district is already due to NotA desires. NotA has no particular effect on me. Probably the steady state result.

Scenario III: I'm in a competitive district, I can either increase my D vote, or minimize NotA votes to get my share. In the senate, I imagine this skews toward minimizing NotA's, and in congress toward my own party.

I like it because it adds nuance, and a certain level of suspense, as well as being a release for people who are just annoyed. I can just see it going in all kinds of directions until people adapt to it.

This changes nothing, actually. The NOTA votes are discounted. If the candidate with the highest vote share has a lower % than the NOTA vote share, he/she still gets elected.

A similar option called O-22 has always existed, except not formally on the voting machines. So all that we get anew is a formally measured barometer of public distrust (which admittedly, could be useful in itself).

Sorry, just noticed you had already mentioned what I said. Apologies, my bad.

Richard Pryor would be so proud.

Seems judicial activism to me.

A similar judicial interference with the political process occurred in the "commonwealth" of Puerto Rico in 1998, when the Puerto Rico Supreme Court, in a brazen example of judicial activism, required the "None of the Above Option" be inserted in the ballot of a plebiscite on Puerto Rico's political status. So in addition to 1) US Statehood, 2) Independence, 3) "Free Associate State", and 4) US Territory, the voters had a fifth option: NONE OF THE ABOVE ...

The great thing is that NONE OF THE ABOVE won (*), with Statehood a strong second

(*) NONE OF THE ABOVE won because most voters in PR prefer the current Commonwealth option but aren't able to man up and admit that the commonwealth option is just a fancy way for continuing PR's existing territorial status

I've been arguing for variants of this for a long time.
Variant 1:
If "none of the above" wins a 2nd election is held, and noone from the first election is allowed to run again.
Variant 2:
If "none of the above" wins, all of the other candidates are disqualified from further public office at all levels everywhere in the US forever.
Variant 3:
Any individual candidate beaten by "none of the above" is disqualified for that office or forever, even if none-of-the-above didn't win the overall (I think this one is too harsh.)

I've also contemplated "abolish the office" as a forced entry on all ballots - but this ends up with nasty operational problems - so have to find some other mechanism to achieve that end. (Which is to allow the electroate a regular, albeit blunt, mechanism to make parts of government smaller.)

In the last year's elections in Serbia, we had a party called "None of the above". As they also managed to be registered as a party of one of the ethnic minorities, they only needed to pass a natural threshold (0.4%) and in the end managed to enter the Parliament. :)

Nevada already has "None of the above" voting. I'm afraid it doesn't work as described. The option never has any impact at the top of the ticket (governor, senator, etc.) If it would ever have been effective, the last US senate race in Nevada would have been a perfect opportunity. NOTA sometimes has an impact on races that don't have big advertising budgets. Voters generally use the option not to express disgust with the choices available but to express some combination of ignorance about the field of candidates and annoyance/disagreement with the job being an elective office rather than appointive.

Don't get too enthusiastic: Russia had that for quite a while after the collapse of the Soviet Union, did it help them much?

I love how not a single criticism of the idea in the comments made anything close to a good point. It didnt "work" in Nevada or Russia? What did you all expect it to "do"? Its just a signaling mechanism.

However, I really like the idea of requiring a new election with new candidates if NotA 'wins'. Imagine that playing out in a US presidential election. Everyone would look silly except the voters for once. A third option that both candidates would have to factor into their campaigns. It wouldn't be difficult to imagine large donars from different idealogical camps all funding NotA ads, united only in rejection of the two party faux-choice.

What I really would like is the option to use my vote to vote AGAINST a candidate. I think it would be extremely instructive, and dis-empowering for politicians who were elected not so much because people endorsed them but because people disliked the other guy more.

I would really like to see some country un-bundle and elect CEO's of benevolence, a CEO of the military, a CEO of transportation etc.

Basically, direct election of cabinet secretaries, you mean.

This sounds like a great idea. I wish we could adopt it here.
Maybe we could make it so if enough people vote for 'none of the above', the government has to loosen ballot access rules so that more third parties can get on it.
Then you have to keep having elections until at least one candidate beats 'none of the above'.
Repeated failure to elect anyone will cause the constituents to go without a representative so it likely would eventually end.
Also would be a great motivator for the media to start covering third parties and allow them into debates.

Regarding criminality in India's parliament, it would be interesting to see what the charges were. I think more or less every opposition MP in Singapore has a criminal record. Those "libel" laws are ever so effective at restacking the cards in the PAP's favor.

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