While you are at the polling booth, if you think none of the candidates fielded by political parties deserves your vote, you still have an option: none of the above (NOTA).
The provision, made available to voters for the first time during the recent Assembly elections in five States, will be incorporated in electronic voting machines (EVMs) for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls as well. Hitherto, voters, who were not impressed by any of the candidates and did not wish to vote for any of them, had to go through a tedious procedure of filling up forms and signing on them, besides facing uncomfortable questions from polling officials.
According to a note sent to the Chief Electoral Officers, the Supreme Court had in a judgment in September 2013, directed the Election Commission to make provision in the ballot papers or EVMs for “none of the above” option, so that voters who do not wish to vote for any candidate can exercise their right in secrecy.
It directed the CEOs to make the NOTA provision after the names of all the candidates. If that was not possible for some reason, like the large number of candidates, a separate ballot paper or EVM should be provided alongside.
The commission has clarified that NOTA has the same effect as not voting for any candidate under the earlier provision of Rule 49-O. That means the NOTA votes are not valid.
The invalidity of NOTA votes gains importance from the point of view of return of security deposit. Under Section 158 of the Representation of the People Act, it is the total number of valid votes polled by all the contesting candidates that is to be taken into account for calculating one-sixth of votes polled by individuals for return of the deposit. Thus, the votes polled against the NOTA option will not be taken into account for calculating the total valid votes polled by the contesting candidates for the purpose of return of security deposit.