Friday, December 26, 2008
Vote "none of the above"
Recently I read José Saramago’s Seeing. Its about a capital city where seventy per cent of the voters cast blank votes in the national elections. And at the repeat election, eighty three per cent of the votes are blank. The authorities, seized with panic, declare a state of emergency and decamp from the capital... Close on the heels of reading Saramago's Seeing comes this welcome news that the Election Commission of India has suggested that one more option be incorporated into the Electronic Voting Machine, enabling voters to reject all the candidates. Long live Indian democracy!
Election Commission wants Electronic Voting Machine options expanded
by Soma Mookherjee
The Statesman, 26 December 2008
Worried about the increasing tendency of the electorate to not exercise their franchise, a practice that often encourages impersonation, the Election Commission has suggested the Centre include one more option in the EVM that would enable such voter to press a button indicating her lack of faith in any of the contesting candidates.
As part of the current system, if any voter doesn't want to back any of the listed candidates, she has to state as much to the presiding officer before her vote can be regarded as invalid. But few voters makes use of the provision so as not to incur the wrath of political parties which deploy election agents at all polling stations. But, if the EVM has an option stating “None of the above (candidates)”, a voter having no faith in the any of the contestants, can speak her mind without any political party getting any wiser. At the same time, no proxy voter can fill in for her.
After the Mumbai terrorist attacks, people across the nation and some NGOs became more vocal in expressing their lack of faith in politicians. Election Commission sources said that some NGOs were gearing up to appeal to people to invoke Rule 49 (O) as per Conduct of Election Rules 1961.
This rule allows a voter to go the polling station, sign the voters’ register and the option to desist from voting in favour of any of the contesting candidates. But sometimes it becomes difficult for a voter to opt for Rule 49(O) owing to the presence of agents of different political parties.
EC sources said earlier, when ballot papers were used, an electorate could easily render her vote invalid by casting it in favour of all candidates but such an option is not available with the EVM.
Considering all this, the Election Commission of India has recommended the Centre change the Representatives of People's Act 1951 and include the option "none of the above'' in EVMs.