[E-voting] Abstention - an accuracy issue?

Fergal Daly fergal at esatclear.ie
Fri Mar 19 13:50:02 GMT 2004

On Fri, Mar 19, 2004 at 12:53:09PM +0000, Mark Dennehy wrote:
> I suppose we are debating it here then.
> Ref:[Fergal Daly, Fri, 19/03/04 @ 10:51 +0000]
> > 1 - It is undemocratic to force someone to choose a number 1 preference if
> > they disagree with all of the choices (more relevant in a presidential
> > election or a referendum than a general election). So there must be an
> > option to not express a preference.
> No, there must be an option to express a preference for none
> of the available choices. Otherwise you're giving the voter a
> "pick one or shut the hell up" choice, which is as democratic
> as an election under Saddam...

No? Why not? I want an option to not express a preference and to do so in
secret. Think of it as "any of the above", the complement of NOTA, it's just
as legitimate. We could have both.

> > This is what we currently have. This is not what we will get with the
> > proposed system.
> This is *not* what we currently have. We do not have the
> right to choose none of the available candidates at present,
> nor any avenue to point out that none of the available
> candidates are preferable. You can stay home and abstain, or
> you can spoil your vote - but neither is taken into account
> by the electoral process. Stay at home and the decision
> is made by those who show up. This is acceptable, because
> it's how abstention is meant to be handled. But spoil your
> vote deliberately because you disagree with none of the
> candidates available and your vote is discarded and has no
> influence on the outcome. This means that if there was an
> election with 100% voter turnout and 99% of the votes had
> "None of the Above" stamped on them by the voters, that the
> election would be decided by the remaining 1%. How this is
> supposed to be a good thing escapes me, I'm afraid.
> > Do you disagree with 1 or 2? Or do you disagree that 1 and 2 together
> > implies "we need an abstain/none of the above button"?
> Please don't say we need one button for both choices. They
> are very different in meaning.

They are different in meaning but I'm not sure what the difference in the
outcome is from each. Abstention is well defined but NOTA is not so clear.

Would it be possible for a seat to be won by NOTA? Would that then cause a
rerun of the election. Rerunning the NOTA seat on it's own is no good
because it will almost certainly go to the most popular party (which is
almost certaibly not what the NOTA voters would have wanted) so you'd need
to rerun the entire constituency, which leads to lots of other problems.

So unless you go for one of these troublesome options as a meaning for NOTA,
it's only use is as an official opinion poll and it leads to the situation
you mentioned above where 1% decide the result.

Actually I think it would be very interesting if NOTA could win and hold a
seat, presumably abstaining or even always voting against the government,
that'd be fun but I don't see that one coming any time soon.

If staying at home for abstention is acceptable then one of the following
must be incorrect.

1. We have the right to choose to abstain

2. Any electoral choice we make should be secret

3. (1 and 2) implies there must be a way to register your abstention that is
not distinguishable (to observers) from any other vote - ie an abstain
button or allow casting a blank ballot etc.

What we currently have allows this,


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