12 Countries Where Citizens Can Vote “None of the Above”

How many times have you looked at your ballot and thought, “I’d rather not vote for any of these candidates”? It can be quite the dilemma for people who want to exercise their civic duty but tire of having to choose between the lesser of two evils.

This past week, India joined a growing list of countries that permit their citizens to vote without having to choose a candidate. Though the issue has been contested in India, the nation’s Supreme Court ultimately decided it was a critical part of democracy and mandated that voters have the option to choose “none of the above” on their ballots.

In a sense, “none of the above” is a formal vote of protest. It’s a rejection of the current parties and ideologies that dominate the political system. While many who are displeased with all of the candidate options choose not to vote altogether, a lot of time their lack of participation is written off as apathy. By selecting “none of the above,” voters can indicate that they both care and pay attention, but they are not happy with business as usual.

As is the case in most countries with this option, “none of the above” cannot technically win in India. Even if “none of the above” gets the most votes, the position is awarded to the eligible candidate who earns the second highest number of votes. So while this protest won’t ultimately dismantle the political system by seating no one, it at least begins to quantify the discontent of the populace.

Assuming that India’s Supreme Court decision sticks, it joins 11 other countries with a “none of the above” option (or similar variant):

  1. Colombia
  2. Ukraine
  3. Brazil
  4. Bangladesh
  5. Finland
  6. Spain
  7. Sweden
  8. Chile
  9. France
  10. Belgium
  11. Greece

Even the United States could join that list so long as an asterisk is affixed. Though it is hardly prevalent throughout the entire country, the state of Nevada has featured a None of the Above option on its ballots since 1975. On one occasion, “none” received the most votes in a Republican primary for Congress. Although the second place vote-getter still received the spot, it sent a clear message that people were uninterested in either candidate.

As great as having a “none of the above” option across the country would be, there has been significant resistance to such efforts. In 2000, California Proposition 23 asked state voters if they’d like to add the option to future ballots, but the measure was handily defeated. Last year, a federal judge tried to ban the practice from persisting in Nevada, though the decision ultimately did not stand.

Nonetheless, “none of the above” could become a valuable tool to more accurately gauge the wishes of voters, particularly in a system seemingly inescapably controlled by two political parties.

73 comments

Jim Ven
Jim Ven1 months ago

thanks for the article.

Jamie S.
Jamie S.2 years ago

Thank you for this. I was asked in the comment section of our petition to get NOTA added to ballot papers in the UK if it exists anywhere else and if it works: http://you.38degrees.org.uk/p/NOTA-UK

The success of it, in terms of cleaning up politics, appears to be minimal - but only because, in all these cases, it has been accepted that even if NOTA wins the popular vote, the next placed candidate will take office anyway. In our view, this is a nonsense that renders the box useless. If NOTA doesn't affect the result in any way, there is no more incentive for disillusioned voters to engage with the system than if there were no NOTA option on the ballot. For this reason, implemented in this way, NOTA doesn't even act as a meaningful measure of voter discontent - which is meant to be the whole point.

Our proposal, as laid out in the 'logistics' part of the text of our petition, is completely different. We have a clear vision of what should happen in the event of a NOTA win, in order for it to be a truly meaningful option: the next place candidate will only take office temporarily as a logistical stop gap to facilitate the re-run election / by-elections that a NOTA win should naturally trigger, thus avoiding political instability in the meantime. This also gives the temporary candidate an opportunity to prove themselves worthy of office ahead of the re-run / by-election, but without handing them a clearly unwarranted mandate, as currently happens in other countries that ha

Jane R.
Jane R.2 years ago

I like the idea. The next step would be that if no candidate got at least 50% of the votes, no one would win and there could be a new election with other candidates chosen by each party.

Ruhee B.
Ruhee B.2 years ago

I think it's a great idea!! Whichever party it is I'm sick of the lot of them!

Kay martin
Kay M.2 years ago

Thank you Kevin for a great article, and thanks to the 67 care 2 members for the comments they made about this subject. If we had that opportunity we could get rid of all the reptile teabagger party by saying we do not approve of any of their candidates ....period. And maybe this country would start putting up good, clean, honest candidates that want to work for the good of AMERICA and its citizens. keep the information coming....

Arild Warud
Arild Warud2 years ago

Thanks for the info.

Felipe H.
Felipe H.2 years ago

I am a chilean, and Chile does NOT have that option. I wish we had it!

Karen C.

"None of the Above" does send a message--but if 2nd place "gets it"--it's ineffective.

Thomas Myers
Thomas Myers2 years ago

Whenever I run into that problem, I use the write in option and vote for myself.

Ron B.
Ron B.2 years ago

Here in the US we complain about so many of our politicians, and rightfully so for the most part. But then we continue to vote the majority of the incumbents back into office over and over again. In general, the consensus seems to be that other people's politicians are bad, but mine are actually pretty good, whether they really are or not.