The reality of today’s electoral democracy is that in many constituencies the voters are discontented with the candidates in the electoral fray. Hence the demand for negative voting. In India, the largest democracy in the world, it is not only expected of the voters to exercise their constitutional right to vote, but it is also their ardent duty. And even though voting is not yet mandatory, the Election Commission of India on its part pro-actively informs all the voters to cast their vote by giving wide publicity towards this end. After all, every vote counts.
But if the voters decide that none of the candidates is worth their vote, what is the way out? In the case where Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) are in use, The Conduct of Elections Rule, 1961, does provide a voter the option to refuse to vote after he has been identified and necessary entries made in the register of electors and in the marked copy of the electoral roll.
But this process brings up the issue of compromising with the secrecy of the voter as the polling officials and the polling agents have the knowledge of the choice of the voter, which goes against the concept of secret ballot in a democratic poll. The Election Commission of India has tried to address this issue, and in its electoral reforms, has recommended that the law should be amended to provide for ‘negative voting’. Some NGOs have also been demanding the option of negative voting.
What is negative voting? Negative voting provides the option of exercising one’s vote to none of the candidates, by providing an extra button in the Electronic Voting Machines that says “none of the above”. This exercising of negative voting, can be interpreted as an expression of discontent by the candidates.
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