I'm pleased to announce that, as of its most recent conference, it is now official policy of the Green Party of England & Wales to add a Re-Open Nominations (RON) option to UK ballot papers if ever in power. RON is effectively NOTA by another, less familiar name, so this is definitely a step in the right direction and a huge boost for our campaign. We are in contact with the party and will be advising and helping to develop the policy in the coming months and years. We will of course once again endeavour to find out where all the other mainstream parties stand on this issue in light of the Green Party's endorsement. Find out more about this development in this blog on the NOTA UK site: http://nota-uk.org/2015/11/24/getting-nota-ron-on-all-uk-ballot-papers-now-official-green-party-policy/
To: The Government & The Electoral Commission
UK Elections: Include 'None of the Above' on all ballot papers.
We demand that legislation be passed making it law that an official 'None Of The Above' (NOTA) option must be included on UK ballot papers for all future elections.
Why is this important?
Consent is central to the concept of democracy. But consent is only measurable if it is possible to withhold it. In the context of elections, this withholding of consent MUST be formal as consenting (voting) is formal.
Yet it is currently impossible to do this.
Abstaining is not formally withholding consent, it is simply not participating and can be dismissed as voter apathy with no further analysis. Spoiling the ballot in protest is not formally withholding consent either as they are lumped in with those spoiled in error. Any spoiled vote count is therefore meaningless as a measure of voter discontent. And neither abstaining or ballot spoiling affects the election result in any way.
Having a formal 'None of the Above' (NOTA) option on ballot papers is the only way to formally withhold consent at an election.
For this reason, NOTA can be shown to be a democratic pre-requisite. As such, inclusion of it would be achievable, with enough understanding and support for it among the general public, because to argue against NOTA is to argue against the concept of democracy itself, once both ideas are properly understood. The powers-that-be must be seen to be pro-democracy at all times, even if they aren't in practice. NOTA, essential in any true democracy, is therefore achievable. All other touted reforms, PR for example, are seen as desirable only, so can be paid lip service to and ignored by those in power.
This is why NOTA should be the ground zero of electoral reform.
In February 2015 we took a significant step closer to getting it. Thanks to NOTA UK's lobbying, the parliamentary Political & Constitutional Reform Committee (PCRC) felt compelled to recommend that the next government hold a public consultation before May 2016 solely on inclusion of NOTA on ballot papers. This was due to their conclusion that there is not only huge demand for it but that there would be a clear positive impact on voter engagement of having it. This was a huge development.
Unfortunately, one of the very first acts of the incoming Conservative government was to shut down the PCRC, rendering all their good work on this and many others issue much harder to follow up on. However, on the upside, it is now an official policy of the Green Party of England & Wales to introduce a Re-Open Nominations (RON) option to UK ballot papers, effectively NOTA by another, less well known name. This is definitely a step in the right direction.
Having a ‘None of the Above’ option on the ballot paper for all future UK elections, as well as providing a way for people to cast a protest vote if they so choose, would be a game changer for our political system as a whole – but only if implemented properly i.e.: with formalised consequences for the result in the event of it ‘winning’.
In other countries that have a NOTA option, India for example, in the event of a NOTA ‘win’, the candidate or party polling the next highest number of votes would be allowed to take office regardless. Clearly, this renders the option meaningless, as a NOTA 'win' would indicate that more voters actively rejected all the available candidates than endorsed any one of them. It therefore makes no sense for the next placed candidate or party to be elected.
For NOTA to be effective in the event of it ‘winning’, a remedial process must be triggered. The election must be re-run with new candidates and/or policies in place. In the UK, this would most likely occur at constituency level, triggering by-elections only. But if it were to occur nationally, then a second general election would have to follow. This is democracy in action.
In such circumstances, we propose that the second placed candidate who polled the next highest number of votes after NOTA should take office – but only temporarily – while preparations are made for a re-run of the election to be held within six to twelve months. This would avoid political instability and the possibility of voter fatigue from having instant re-run elections whilst ensuring that the will of the electorate is honoured in an acceptable time frame. (Please note, this is a draft proposal only, open to debate and development as we get closer to NOTA's inclusion!)
The knock on effect of having this real NOTA option with real ramifications could be huge. To avoid a NOTA defeat, parties would have to rethink their choices of candidates and policies and offer something that might be acceptable to more of the electorate, would-be NOTA voters included.
Implemented this way, as well as engaging disillusioned non-voters, NOTA also has the potential to engage disillusioned voters and bring politics and our democracy into the 21st Century, ultimately making our democracy something meaningful and worth engaging with in the first place.
If you agree, please sign and share the petition and let the current crop of career politicians and vested interests know that enough is enough. Thank you.
How it will be delivered
We will email the signatures, deliver the petition in person and stage a press conference.