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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

None of the above

I always go to the polls. I dutifully scrawl some libertarian slogan on the ballot. Some vote-counter reads it, puts my paper in the “spoiled” pile, and – who knows? – maybe has their life changed by a Damascene conversion to the cause of liberty, years later.

A pitiful exercise? Perhaps. But I could not bear to stay away and be thought apathetic.

I have given up trying to make my nearest and dearest understand. She says I am opting out – or sitting on the fence – or I think I don’t make a difference.

I try to explain that my vote makes precisely as much difference as hers: namely, infinitesimally more than zero. Her vote and mine are symbolic acts.

My explanation is useless too.

Suppose there were a “None of the above” box on our ballot papers? Should I use it? Or would that be validating the whole rotten system? Do those who stay right away and watch the movie channel making a more valid protest?

Abstaining even from a “None of the above” box would be an act of exquisite hyper-rejection. Hmmm … attractive.

13 comments to None of the above

  • In my county, the ballot reading machines are bothered by people who write extra stuff on the ballot. So we have teams of people whose job it is to carefully copy all your choices onto a clean ballot, and feed it to the reading machine.

    Thwarting your best efforts, and counting your ballot anyway.

  • If “None of the Above” were structured in such a way that if it got a plurality, it meant they’d have to run a new election with none of the people defeated by NOTA allowed to run, I’d have no qualms about voting for NOTA.

  • While I’d support Ted’s NOTA, my preference for NOTA is that if NOTA wins, the seat goes empty until the next regularly scheduled election for it. The seat automatically votes no on any legislation.

  • I’m all in favour of anybody who wants to reject the whole boiling going and laying down their ‘bugger off’ marker. As for me in my quasi-marginal, presently I favour voting defensively to keep the greater evil out, and then spending the next five years doing more constructive things that include resisting the lesser.

    But the thing about spoiling the ballot is, it’s an active claim to the franchise, and an active warning to the clowns who use voting behaviour to assert public consent. 5% of spoiled ballots is less of a threat than UKIP. 20% – especially if word got out that the spoiling all ran in a particular direction – would see a lot of brown trousers on the green benches. It’s only insignificant for the same reason minor parties are: because not a lot of people do it.

    As for NOTA, I’m sure it’s not there precisely because it might be entirely too popular. Minor parties probably stand to gain more than they lose by supporting it – the Greens were pretty strongly committed to it about ten years back, and likely are still – but carrying it all the way to the winning post might be something else again. It sounds like an obvious one for libertarian platforms to go with, though.

    Short of being granted NOTA by its natural targets, the best way to tick that box is indeed to grab as much of it as possible without permission. As you did.

  • guy herbert

    In the run-up to the 1970 election, my father essayed the “Vote for a Donkey” campaign, the idea of which was to encourage voters to write across their ballot:
    Too literary, perhaps, but the Electoral Commission has yet to destroy the part of voting scrutiny in this coutry where the agents of all candidates together examine and agree the spoilt ballots. The principle of forcing them all to read the same, pointed rather than merely abusive, message is still good.


    The Greens’ internal elections historically were run on the basis of STV with R.O.N. = re-open nominations always a candidate. I think that is culturally interesting: hyperdemocratic rather than permitting the repudiation of democracy implicit in “none of the above”. If none of the above wins, and a post really has to be filled, then I submit sortition is the best way to do it.

  • Some people have been using stickers, which is quicker than writing. I’ve never been sure what to do either, but I do like the idea of the candidates having to read the slogans, even if they do think we’re crazy and insignificant. But I prefer to think of my fellow abstainees as not apathetic but just as disgruntled as me.

  • There was a “None of the Above” box on my ballot paper, because I put it there, and my cross went in it.

    If people systematically did that, “word would get out”.

    Defacing it or a slogan might be seen as ranting and easily dismissed. A calm, logical, neat addition of the box, I think, is much more powerful.

  • And None of the Above would appear to have been the victor.

  • Kev

    Perhaps someone should organise a group of people to stand anonymously in various areas under the name ‘None of the Above’ in the next election. It’d be interesting to see how popular it would be if it was there as an option…

  • Laird

    I agree with Ted’s NOTA: if it wins, a new election is called and anyone on the previous ballot is disqualified from participating. That’s the only fair way to do it; simply leaving the seat vacant would disenfranchise the entire electorate.

    In my jurisdication I can’t write slogans or “pointed” statements on the ballot because we use electronic voting machines; there’s nothing to write on. However, we do have the (theoretical*) ability to vote for a write-in candidate, and they are supposed to count those names, so I suppose I could write in “None of the Above” as my candidate in appropriate races. I think I’ll try that next time. I do make it a practice to abstain from voting in races where someone is running unopposed (which happens far too often) unless I know and like that specific candidate; it’s a small protest, but I want him to know that he did not get the votes of all the electors.

    * I say “theoretical” because once I wrote in my name for Sewer and Water Commissioner, or some such meaningless position, and never saw it counted. So I’m not sure how carefully the poll workers handle write-in votes.

  • @Kev, Election Law specifically forbids using “none of the above”

  • Alasdair

    Tim Carpenter – so what is needed is a group to form, based upon a less-than-cloistered religious organisation, to be called The Above … members of this group who choose to stand for election would agree to accept and embrace the title of Nun

    Et voila !

    Another triumph for homophony …

  • Kev

    Damn, maybe it’ll have to be more subtle then. “Check this box if you hate thieving bastards” or something 🙂