Friday, April 25, 2014

A new option

Until the previous elections in Tamil Nadu, a voter could express her displeasure at the available candidates by stamping on multiple names in the ballot paper. There was also another option, under Section 49-O of the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961, for a voter to shun the ballot altogether, and record his decision in a separate form. Very few people actually knew about Section 49-O, and almost none of those would call for a form to record their dissent. Why should they, when they could have fun stamping across multiple names?

With electronic voting machines (EVM) replacing ballot papers, that fun was curtailed. The EVM would accept only one press of the button - and that, with a beep. Dissent wasn't possible through the EVM, and asking for the form clearly violated the principle of a secret ballot. The Supreme Court of India agreed with that contention and accepted the Election Commission's request to include "None of the Above" as a standard option on all the EVMs. 

And so there it was: the one candidate who is contesting across all constituencies in the country this year. NOTA. Would this candidate win anywhere? Well, even if there is a majority opting for NOTA, it is the top-grossing human who would still go on to win!

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