Following the county council elections we’ve been hearing a lot about ‘None of the Above’.
The IPPR recently flagged None of the Above – or NOTA – as a part of their plan to boost youth turnout – making voting for under 24s compulsory, but ensuring there’s an option for first time voters to register their disdain for the candidates on offer.
The Greeks have the ‘white’ option on their ballot; the US State of Nevada has ‘None of these candidates’. Spain and Columbia have the voto en blanco. Russia abolished it in 2006. Bangladesh introduced it in 2008. And Pakistani voters would have had the option in last weeks’ general election had their electoral commission not rejected it.
NOTA’s younger brother RON may be familiar to those well versed in student politics (for those that aren’t that’s Re Open Nominations). But should the rest of the UK sign up? We’ve seen petitions and campaigns springing up and we want to see what our supporters think.
So what are the arguments?
The upside. Well we might get a measure of political disenchantment in Britain.
We won’t have to speculate about what kept people at home. Nearly 16 million potential voters passed on the 2010 general election, and that should concern us all. The logic is that turnout would increase if those turned off by the parties are given a chance to express their view.
The downside? Shouldn’t elections be a positive statement? Will what’s been billed as the ‘ultimate protest vote’do anything to bridge the growing gap between people and politics? Isn’t this all a bit, well, anti-politics?
Where NOTA is an available option the limited evidence to hand suggests it isn’t widely used – it’s populists and hard left and right parties that remain the main beneficiaries of protest votes.
And there are a lot of unknown quantities.
What would happen in the event of a NOTA victory is unclear. Should the seat remain vacant? Would voters get the candidates they were pining for?
We’ll leave that to you. Give us your view in the comments box below.