What is NOTA?

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What is NOTA

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NOTA is one of the options that is found in the voting machine. If you have voted in the past in India or in other countries, you might already have across NOTA and may have opted for it as well. So, what is this NOTA? In this article we will be talking about NOTA and its surrounding facts. You will also get glimpses about pre-EVM (or pre-Electronic Voting Machine) days when ballot paper was used to cast votes. Apart from that, we will also be discussing the advantages and disadvantages of NOTA. This article will conclude with some important FAQs by people from all over the world.

So, without delaying any further let us start our reading adventure!

What is NOTA?

NOTA stands for “None Of The Above” in an Electronic Voting Machine. It also means “against all” or a “scratch” vote. An EVM or Electronic Voting Machine consists of the names of the candidates and symbols of the political parties with their corresponding ballot buttons that needs to be selected in order to cast your vote. Below all of the party options in the panel is an option named NOTA that is selected by the voters in case they have rejected all of the above mentioned political parties. This allows the voters who feel that none of the contesting parties deserve to be voted an opportunity to not cast their votes. Thus, the right to vote not only permits a voter to select their choice able party but also the right to not vote for anyone. The procedure of voting for NOTA is a secret process just like voting for any other candidate.

When was NOTA First Introduced in the General Election?

The NOTA option was available to Indians in most of the elections held in 2009 and it had no electoral value. This means that the NOTA option was not a deciding factor for the electoral results. On September 27, 2013 the Supreme Court ordered the Election Commission of India (ECI) that a NOTA option be incorporated on EVMs and a ballot button be provided for the same. The directive was mentioned in the Union of India vs People’s Union for Civil Liberties case.

The NOTA option was first used in 2013 during the assembly elections that were held in 5 Indian states of Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Mizoram. More than 15 lakh people casted a negative vote in these elections. Other NOTA voters with their countries are-

  • Delhi- 50,000
  • Chhattisgarh- 3.56 lakh
  • P- 5.9 lakh
  • Rajasthan- 5.67 lakh

The NOTA option was introduced for the Rajya Sabha elections by the ECI in 2014. However, it was removed in 2018 for Legislative Council and Rajya Sabha polls.

Before the EVMs started functioning, the ballot paper was used to cast vote. If a voter does not want to select any political party they must submit the ballot paper without marking on it. Thus, a ballot paper with no voter’s mark was regarded as NOTA. Moreover, the voters needed to fill a 49-O form to get identified as a NOTA-caster.

Why was the NOTA option introduced in the EVMs?

The NOTA option is a negative vote introduced to bring a systematic change in the Indian polls. So as to prevent losing votes, the NOTA option will propel the political parties to present clean nominees or sound candidates for the elections. Men of high morals and ethical values will be able to win elections as the NOTA option will motivate them to work better.

It was an expression that people are not satisfied with the candidates who are contesting the elections. Voting for NOTA can be called a fundamental right of speech and expression under the Constitution.

Who Designed the NOTA symbol?

The symbol for the NOTA is a small ballot paper with a cross on it. It was designed by Prof Tarun Deep Girdher (Senior NID professor, graphic design and head, print labs and publications) along with his team who took more than 5 months to complete it.  The design of the NOTA symbol was finalized in 2015.

What Was the 49-O Form?

In the pre-EVM times when the ballot paper was in usage, the voter who decides to reject all political parties and go for the NOTA option, must fill up the 49-O form. The form was a vote-declaration that compromised the secrecy of the voter. As a result, the Supreme Court regarded the method as unconstitutional and decided to bring a new policy for NOTA-voters by ensuring complete security for them.

What is the 49-O law in elections?

The 49-O law in The Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961 states that if an elector doesn’t want to cast his vote, then the following procedure will be carried out:

After the electoral roll has been entered in the register of voters in Form 17A and signed or bears a thumb impression under the sub-rule (1) of 49L, and decides to not vote, a remark about the same will be made in the Form 17A by the presiding officer and a signature/thumb impression of the voter must be made against the remark. This procedure was followed to avoid any kind of fraud or misuse of votes.

What are the NOTA Advantages and Disadvantages?

Advantages of NOTA

  • The first advantage of NOTA is that it gives the voter the freedom to not cast a vote for any candidate or political party. Just as casting a vote is a fundamental right for every citizen of the country, not casting a vote is equally a constitutional right.
  • NOTA prevents false voting and fake voters.
  • The voting for NOTA is totally a secret process that is equal to casting a vote for any political party. Thus, voters of a particular region that has a political dominance need not worry while casting their NOTA votes.
  • By not voting, people are expressing their opinions freely about their non-inclination or non-preference towards any political party and candidate.
  • When the NOTA option came into the scenario, larger population were reported to be participating in the voting process.

Disadvantages of NOTA

  • Despite NOTA receiving the highest votes, the second highest party to win becomes the ruling party. Thus, the NOTA votes are that section of the general population that do not support or co-operate with the winning candidate or party.
  • People who are not interested in politics have no information or opinion about the contesting candidates. As a result, they decide to go for the NOTA option without having any particular preference. This should clearly be avoided as voting is an important decision regarding the nation that is taken by an elector. It is about electing your representative who will work for the general public.
  • Dominant political parties often misuse the power given to them. They often convince or compel the voters to not choose the NOTA option.
  • NOTA sometimes leads to wastage of votes as preferring a candidate increases their chances of winning the election than not electing anyone at all.

What happens when NOTA option gets the most votes?

When NOTA in India gets the highest or most votes, the  second-highest option is regarded the true winner of the elections. Therefore, despite having received the most votes, NOTA in India has no real impact on the voting system. In other words, NOTA has no electoral value. However, a PIL was filed in the Supreme Court by an advocate Ashwini Kumar who believed that re-elections should be held in case NOTA receives the highest votes.

How to Vote for NOTA in an EVM?

Since the NOTA vote in India is present in the final panel of the EVM, the elector needs to press on the corresponding EVM button to cast their vote. There are differences between casting a negative vote back then and nowadays.

Earlier, the NOTA-caster must inform the presiding officer about their decision. Nowadays, the NOTA vote is cast with complete security and doesn’t involve informing the presiding officer. Moreover, in earlier times, the reason behind not casting a vote needed to be mentioned which is not a necessity nowadays.

Countries allowing NOTA votes

  • India
  • Colombia
  • Ukraine
  • Brazil
  • Finland
  • Bangladesh
  • Sweden
  • Chile
  • Spain
  • Greece
  • Belgium
  • France
  • US

Final Thought!

Voting is a major responsibility of the citizen of a country. And NOTA is a fundamental right for every citizen. Be it NOTA or any political party, each one of us must cast our vote with complete awareness and sound judgement. Only then, we will have a country where our representatives are morally and intellectually superior. When governance is great, no one can stop our country from becoming its best self or version.

What would you define as NOTA? Do you think re-election is necessary if NOTA wins the highest votes? Share with us your opinion in the comment section below.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What NOTA means?

The full form of NOTA is “None Of The Above”. This option is present in the EVMs that allows a voter to not cast his vote by selecting its corresponding ballot button.

When was the NOTA first introduced in India?

The NOTA existed in India during the year 2009. It was incorporated into the EVM in 2013.

What is the full form of EVM?

The full form of EVM is Electronic Voting Machine. It is a machine that you can use to cast your vote for your chosen political party.

When was the first voting machine used?

The first voting machine or Electronic Voting Machine was used in 1982 in the by-elections in the North Paravur Assembly constituency (Kerala) with limited polling stations. Prior to that, ballot papers were used to cast votes.

Where in India is the indelible ink used in elections made?

Mysore Paints and Varnish Limited in Mysore is the only place in India that produces the indelible ink that is used to stain the fingers of the people casting their votes. NOTA electors also get their fingers stained from the ink.

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