Why don't more democratic countries have the option to allow voters to vote NOTA ("None of the above") and reject all candidates if NOTA exceed candidates's votes? Doing that would leave that government position open.

I have an example to show what I mean:

Total vote: 100%, NOTA: 97%, Candidate 1st: 2%, Candidate 2nd: 1%

More democratic countries should reject both, isn't it.

  • 7
    1. What exactly do you expect to happen in that situation? 2. Did you do some research how often it actually happens that more people vote "none of the above" than for an actual candidate (in those few jurisdictions where that's actually an option)?
    – Philipp
    Commented Nov 6, 2020 at 15:14
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    @Gary2 Your example seems to be an imaginary one? Is there any example where this has actually happened?
    – Brian Z
    Commented Nov 6, 2020 at 15:26
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    @Phillip: I've actually theorized something like this before. If you look at (say) the US elections, you find that the number of non-voters is roughly equal in size to the people who vote for each party (meaning that when a president gets just over 50% of the popular vote, he's actually only gotten approval from just over 33% of the population). It's perfectly conceivable that if all of those people voted NOTA, NOTA would win. If the office were then left open, the government would carry on just fine, at least for a while (the action of governance is vested in institutions and agencies). Commented Nov 6, 2020 at 15:27
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    @Philipp: it's 'hair-shirt' democracy — not for the faint of heart — but it's feasible, and has some distinct advantages over our current model. However, right now I'm trying to decide whether it's appropriate for me to indulge in this kind of political theory on this site. I can answer the question thoroughly; I'm just not sure I ought to. Commented Nov 6, 2020 at 15:31
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    As you all know, this website is not a discussion forum. We are not here to debate the pro's and con's of political ideas. We are here to answer objective questions. So if this question is just about brainstorming a political idea, then this is not really the appropriate platform for it.
    – Philipp
    Commented Nov 6, 2020 at 15:32

2 Answers 2


To give a more realistic understanding of this question, consider that in the last 40 years or so of US presidential races, the number of eligible citizens who do not vote at all — many of whom don't even register — is roughly equal in size to the votes cast for each political party. In other words, the country seems to be divided in rough thirds: Those who vote Democrat, those who vote Republican, and those who do not vote at all, with a percentage who shift between groups from election cycle to election cycle. If we make the coarse assumption that all of those non-voting citizens decided not to vote because they dislike both candidates, and if we gave those citizens a 'None Of The Above' (NOTA) option, then it is perfectly realistic to think that NOTA might win the popular vote in a US presidential election. And this is in the context that presidential elections have higher turnout and higher response rates than elections for any other public office in the US. US Congresspeople, state legislators and governors, local officials, elected judges, etc often win their seats with tallies as low as 10% of their eligible constituency. If almost 80% of eligible citizens don't bother to vote for a particular office, how difficult would it be to convince (say) one-fifth of those people to vote NOTA? That would give a roughly 15% vote share to NOTA, ensuring its victory.

Now, the main argument against 'None Of The Above' options on ballots is that we need political offices filled to maintain our system of government. Things will fall apart, so the claim goes, unless there is someone at the helm guiding the ship. This is a valid point, to an extent, but it's important to note that most of the actual work of government is carried on by institutions and agencies — non-elected civil servants grinding through the daily tasks of providing government services — and these institutions and agencies are quite capable of carrying out the work of government in the absence of a politically elected leader. Political leaders are important to guide the course of government and keep these agencies and institutions in tune and on track, but the system as a whole will maintain consistency — at least for a while — just the way that a ship will continue floating if its captain decides to run off with a mermaid (or, whatever...). There are risks in allowing elected offices to remain empty until a clear public mandate is established — sudden crises or problems might crop up that call for leadership — but the system as a whole will not immediately crash and burn because there is no one occupying the leader's seat.

There are also some distinct advantages in adding a 'None Of The Above' option, at least from the perspective of the citizen. The prospect that a large NOTA vote might nullify an election is a strong incentive for political parties and candidates to run inclusive, non-divisive campaigns. Offending potential voters becomes politically dangerous; winning an office demands pulling people into one's camp, and cannot rest on alienating people in the opposing camp. It would shift more attention to underserved groups, who are most likely to vote NOTA out of a sense of frustration, and would place a check on candidates to keep them from straying too far from the interests and needs of their constituents.

However, this would be 'hair-shirt' representative democracy. Citizens would have to be willing to accept the risks that come from an absence of leadership in order to achieve the goal of more responsive and responsible leadership, and that is an uncomfortable prospect. The transition to such a system would terrify many people (who prefer the security of always having someone in charge, no matter how terrible they might be), and even after it was established and institutionalized it would involve a constant struggle of wills between the citizenry and the parties/people vying to be their representatives.


The purpose of an election is usually to select the legislature and/or the executive. While wits might joke that the nation would be better off if either of those was missing, that's underestimating the very real need to have a parliament and government. So most election systems make sure that somebody is elected.

  • Sometimes, we elect the less worse among the group of worst. NOTA is quite useless. Somebody would still be elected if NOTA was actually a function not a dummy. Thank you om for your answer.
    – Gary 2
    Commented Nov 6, 2020 at 15:41
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    @Gary2, if NOTA does not affect the outcome it is still a way for voters to show that they are not too lazy to vote, that they do care, and that they dislike all options equally. The last part is the problem, of course. If there is bad and worse, voting NOTA to spite both is dangerous.
    – o.m.
    Commented Nov 6, 2020 at 15:46
  • @o.m., there are provisions for dealing with an elected position becoming unexpectedly vacant. If NOTA winning is treated as an unexpected vacancy, there's no problem.
    – Mark
    Commented Nov 6, 2020 at 22:23

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