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):
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.