POLYAS Election Glossary

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

Abstained Votes

Abstention from voting is a form of exercising one's right to vote. When someone confirms that they are abstaining from voting, it means they are voting neither for nor against the motion at hand. They are nevertheless taking part in the election through expressing neither approval nor disapproval for a particular candidate, party or motion.

Abstaining from voting is not always a pre-planned decision. However, even if one decides to abstain only once inside the ballot box, they can do this by consciously casting an invalid vote. This can be done by voting for an option which isn't included on the ballot paper, which will in turn mean that the ballot paper won't be counted towards the official election result.

Active and Passive Abstention

Active abstention occurs when voters make an positive effort to display their decision not to vote for any available motion or candidate. They can do this by casting an invalid vote as described above, or in some cases this can be done by ticking a special box on the ballot paper marked 'abstain'. On the other hand, passive abstention simply means the voter doesn't show up to vote in the election at all.

See also: Invalid Votes, Election Campaign, Voter Turnout

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