Why we needed a ‘None of the Above’ voting option in this federal election

Sabrina Almeida

Should you be forced to vote for ‘a’ political candidate even when you don’t like any of the options on your ballot?

Yes, the current Canadian election system does require you to cast your vote for ‘someone’ who is standing for elections in your riding.

So, if you’re in a kind of a best-of-the-worst scenario and don’t know what to do… you could play tic-tac-toe, or close your eyes and randomly mark your ballot as some voters have done.

No, this is not a responsible way to choose our next federal government! In fact, it’s like throwing your vote away and passing the buck on for others to decide the outcome.

Then there are a few displeased voters who have checked all the boxes in frustration. Of course, these ballots will be discarded as well.

Why vote then, one might ask. It’s a valid question!

The only other choice currently available, if you don’t want to vote for any candidate, is to abstain and stay home on election day.

But that’s not acceptable either if you are conscientious about exercising your democratic right to elect your government.

Deciding whom to vote in, be it in a federal, provincial, or municipal election, is never simple. They all vow to fulfill our dreams on the campaign trail and then forget their promises almost as soon as they’re handed the reins of power.

A majority government can work unencumbered or stamp all over us. A minority government, on the other hand, can keep calling for elections till they get a majority. As Liberal leader Justin Trudeau hinted, he will do.

But given that this election during a pandemic was totally unnecessary is what has created so many reluctant voters.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that several Canadians are not just undecided about whom to vote for on Monday but also unwilling to support any of the main parties with election platforms that are laden with unrealistic promises.

So, do we replace one irresponsible government with another undependable one? Or vote in a third unlikely candidate with no experience in managing the country?

It’s a tough choice. And neither the promises nor the mud-slinging on the campaign trail have brought clarity.

India has a ‘None of the Above’ (NOTA) option that I wish Canada had especially in this election.

NOTA allows individuals the option to choose none of the running candidates, sending the message that none are good enough to govern the country. Ideal, isn’t it?

One school of thought believes that this has the potential to create confusion. Especially if the NOTA option secures the most votes. It can mean that no party will form a government or the one with the second most votes will step up which defeats the purpose. It could also result in another election.

All of these might seem like undesirable outcomes. However, NOTA reportedly helped bring the democracy movement to power in Russia and Eastern Europe in the 90s. Boris Yeltsin is believed to have credited the “none of the above” option in the 1990 election with helping “convince the people they had real power” even in a rigged election and “playing a role in building true democracy”.

I believe NOTA is the simplest and most effective way to express one’s rejection of all candidates. It also demonstrates the people’s ability to hold officials accountable.

Even in the worst case scenario, not having an outcome is better than giving into Liberal fear mongering and rejecting the Conservatives, or voting the latter in just because you’re sick of Trudeau. Or voting NDP with the intention of splitting the votes and preventing both the Liberals and Conservatives from getting a majority.

Surely, NOTA would put political parties and their leaders on notice!!! For this, NOTA votes must be counted and declared.

But in the absence of a NOTA option, we must exercise our right to vote responsibly. Make an informed decision by weighing each platform carefully. Put party loyalty aside. Don’t be swayed by (or influence) people in the community or even family.

Pre-elections polls put the front runners in a close race. It’s definitely not the slam dunk that Trudeau thought it would be.
Political leaders have shouted themselves hoarse for over a month. Now on Monday, Canadians will have their say!!!



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