None Of The Above (NOTA) Campaign
None of the Above (NOTA) or against all is a ballot choice in some jurisdictions or organizations, placed so as to allow the voter to indicate his disapproval with all of the candidates in any voting system. It is based on the principle that all legitimate consent requires the ability to withhold consent, allowing voters to withhold their consent in an election to office, just as they can by voting no on ballot questions.
NOTA was registered as a political party with the UK Electoral Commission on 2 March 2009. It is the intention of NOTA to field candidates in every UK parliamentary constituency. The respective NOTA candidates will not continue in office should they receive the most votes. It is merely a mechanism to facilitate a means of recording a NOTA vote. Under the Registration of Political Parties (Prohibited Words and Expressions) (Amendment) Order 2005 (S.I. 2005/147), “None of the above” is a prohibited expression regarding registration as a party name.
The aims of NOTA are:
a) to raise awareness of the fundamentally undemocratic nature of our current system of government
b) to provide information about what None Of The Above is, how it would work and why it is so central to the concept of democracy
c) to put pressure on the political establishment to include a None Of The Above box on the UK ballot paper.
THE FACTS ABOUT ‘NONE OF THE ABOVE’
Spoilt Ballots & Turnout Figures
With a general election around the corner, it seems that many people who support the NOTA-UK movement in principle are under the impression that spoiling the ballot paper is the same thing as None Of The Above. It isn’t, this is FALSE.
Spoilt ballot papers ARE counted but they are categorically NOT counted as PROTEST votes. If they were, there would be no need for the NOTA box.
When you spoil the ballot paper in protest it is counted and grouped with all the ballot papers spoiled in error. There is no distinction made between a vote creatively spoilt in protest and one that someone messed up. They are all lumped in together and defined collectively as the latter, not the former.
In addition, people who spoil ballots in protest, or in error, are added to the turnout figures just for walking into the polling station, even though their ‘vote’ is not actually counted in any way. So, aside from making you feel better, spoiling a ballot paper actually achieves nothing, in fact it only compounds the problem.
In contrast, voting NOTA in numbers (if we could), would have a profound impact on any election result.
Our ‘First Past The Post’ (FPTP) page has full details on our current system, in summary it is a two party system where no-else can ever get a look in. This is because of the many supposedly ‘safe’ seats that are traditionally always Labour or Conservative. These seats represent a minority of the UK population, yet they also represent a disproportionately large amount of seats in parliament, thus giving the two main parties a huge head start at election time.
In these ‘safe’ seats the turnout is always incredibly low, as most people know the result is a forgone conclusion. A NOTA box on the ballot paper would absolutely demolish this idea of a ‘safe’ seat as it would give the abstaining majority in those constituencies something tangible to vote for and by doing so, level the playing field nationwide.
If NOTA Wins
If the NOTA box were to carry the majority vote in any single constituency, there would have to be a re-run election in that constituency with the previous candidates disqualified and new candidates put forward. This is good for democracy, it would encourage and enable genuine candidates relying on truth and integrity rather than career politicians relying on spin and manipulation to come forward and have a go. It would not, as some have tried to suggest, create chaos or a power vacuum. It would be a simple case of staging a second election, which would take a matter of days, during which time the previous administration would obviously hold the fort.
If the NOTA box were to carry the majority vote nationwide (also known as the popular vote), as is highly likely, the same principle unfortunately doesn’t apply. Under any form of Proportional Representation (see PR page), it would. But under our current FPTP system, the party who won the most seats would still form the next government. But in those circumstances, that government would have no legitimacy, as the larger popular vote would be UNIFIED behind one thing – None Of The Above. Electoral reform would have to follow, it would be unavoidable as the government’s position would be completely untenable.
This is why NOTA has to be the first step on the road to reforming our system of government. No matter how much the two main parties talk about having referendum’s on the electoral process once they are elected (whilst electioneering, naturally), the truth is they have no intention of ever voluntarily scrapping FPTP as they know it would be the end of their dominance of the whole process.
Getting a NOTA box is achievable, however, for the reasons discussed on the About Us page. A NOTA box on the ballot paper could, and most likely would, create circumstances in which the political establishment would have no choice but to reform our electoral system. NOTA is therefore the seed from which all other electoral and political reform can grow.
The Re-open Nomination’s Issue
A lot of people have said to us things like “None OF The Above sounds a bit negative, wouldn’t Re-Open Nominations (RON) be better?”
In a by-election, or individual constituencies in a general election, RON is applicable but we would be in favour of ‘None Of The Above (re-open nominations)’ as a compromise for two reasons:
Firstly, a lot of people who would vote NOTA would do so out of pure protest and disillusionment with our entire system. They would therefore be unlikely to vote for ‘Re-Open Nominations’ if that were how the option were presented to them. None Of The Above is totally unambiguous and has infinitely more clout with these people, of which there are millions.
Secondly, at a national level in a general election, RON is completely inapplicable, because if it, or NOTA, were to carry the popular vote nationwide, under FPTP the party with the most seats would still form the next government. There would be no re-opening of nominations, so RON would make no sense. As stated above, in that scenario, the new government would have no legitimacy as the nationwide popular vote would be greater and unified behind one thing, electoral reform would have to follow. In which case, that one thing has to be NOTA, as that is in fact what people have voted for.
As for negativity, what we are campaigning for is the democratic right to say NO, so None Of The Above is completely appropriate. Being able to say NO to something unacceptable, or that isn’t working, is in fact inherently positive on account of what it represents in terms of liberty and democracy.
New Political Parties & Independents
Many people have also said to us things like: “Why get people to unite behind ‘no-one’, why not set up a new political party or get those people to vote for one of the other parties, or stand as independents?”
The answer to this is simple. In our current system, only Labour and the Conservatives have any realistic chance of forming a government, due to FPTP. All other parties are essentially irrelevant and merely reinforce the illusion-of-democracy. When a new party, or a fringe party or independent causes an upset and wins a seat, they actually have no real influence or power in Westminster because of the nature of our undemocratic disproportional system. These occurrences serve only to grab a few headlines and allow the likes of Cameron and Brown to crow about the virtues of our wonderful ‘democracy’, even though it isn’t one. As for mobilising our supporters to vote for an established party, this would obviously be counter productive to our aims for the same reasons.
NOTA is the only way to turn this scenario around and give other parties and independents any degree of relevance within our system of government.
(NB: The phrase ‘None Of The Above’ is prohibited from appearing on the UK ballot paper in the context of describing a new political party or candidate (for obvious reasons – people would think they were casting a vote for ‘none of the above’, when in fact it would be a vote for a registered party of that name). It is NOT, however, prohibited as a means to register a non-partisan positive abstention, which is what we are campaigning for).
Unfortunately, all the while we have this undemocratic two party system and no means of saying NO, the only way to positively impact upon it at election time is to not vote and try to engineer a ridiculously low turnout that calls into question the winning party’s legitimacy. As discussed on the homepage, this is, however, not the same as withholding consent and saying “NO”. It is merely not participating in the process.
But sadly, if you vote at all in our current system, you are merely reinforcing and propping up an undemocratic two party system and everything it represents, no matter who you vote for. So many feel they have no choice but to abstain.
That is why we need a NOTA box on the ballot paper as matter of urgency.