POLYAS Election Glossary

We provide explanations and background information on elections, voting rights and digital democracy

None of the Above

None of the above (NOTA) is an option on a ballot that allows a voter to not vote for any of the running candidates. Whilst similar to a spoilt vote in so far as being a protest vote, none of the above is a specific ballot option, whereas a spoilt vote normally entails defacing the ballot. Voters tend to opt for NOTA in order to express their dissatisfaction with the options available. Disillusioned voters are given a valid means of having their voice heard. If NOTA receives a significant proportion of the votes – or more extreme yet, wins outright – public officials will be forced to take note.

The ‘none of the above’ option can take different forms. For student union elections in the UK, there is usually a ‘Re-open Nominations’ option on the ballot. Should this option receive the most votes, the nominations will be reopened.

Nevertheless, ‘none of the above’ is not an option that is found in most major elections. In the US, it is absent at the federal level and only exists in the state of Nevada as ‘None of these Candidates’.  In Nevada, the option has won on numerous occasions, but it does not affect the outcome. The candidate with the second highest number of votes simply wins.

In Canada, the option remains absent. 

See also: Spoilt ballot, Ballot paper, Voter turnout

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