[E-voting] Abstention - an accuracy issue?

Mark Dennehy Mark.Dennehy at cs.tcd.ie
Fri Mar 19 19:31:37 GMT 2004

Ref:[Aengus Lawlor, Fri, 19/03/04 @ 15:52 -0000]
> Abstention and "None of the Above" are not the same thing! "None of the
> Above" implies a "negative vote", as Mark Dennehy explained (but he
> doesn't explain who get's to run the country if "None of the Above" wins
> the election). NOTA doesn't really make any sense in a PR system - what
> happens if "NOTA" get's 2 quotas in a 5 seater? Do you just fill the
> other 3 seats?

As I pointed out in an earlier post, there are different
mechanisms to handle this. I feel the most appropriate one is
that if the NOTA vote receives more votes than the most
popular candidate receives first preferences, then the
election be declared void and the candidates ruled ineligible
for a re-election attempt. 

Frankly, I can't see this happening more than once or twice
at the start at the very most, realistically speaking.
However to say that we would have a shortage of replacement
candidates belies the nature of most politicans, in my honest

There are other benefits to a binding NOTA voting choice. To
quote from an american NOTA site (Nebraska and a few other
states have NOTA votes on the ballot) :

    All legitimate consent requires the ability to withhold
consent; "None of the Above" gives the voter the ballot
option to withhold consent from an election to office, just
as voters can cast a "No" vote on a ballot question.

    Would end the "must hire" elections where voters are often
forced to vote for the least unacceptable candidate, the all
too familiar "lesser evil."

    A candidate must obtain voter consent to be elected, even if
running unopposed.

    Voters would decide the fate of the political parties'
choices, instead of the parties deciding the voters' choices.

    It should reduce negative campaigning by encouraging
candidates to campaign for their own candidacy rather than
against their opponent's candidacy.

    Many voters and non voters, who now register their
disapproval of all candidates for an office by not voting,
could cast a meaningful vote.

    The meaning of elections should become more clear, since
voters would no longer be tempted to vote for a presumed
losing candidate, with whom they really do not agree, as a
protest vote.

    Establishes flexible, voter controlled term limits of one
term for every office.

    Campaign contributors who give to all candidates to insure
"access" would no longer be sure they backed the winner; in
general, buying elections should become a more uncertain

    Improves checks and balances between voters and political
parties, especially needed in jurisdictions with one dominant
political party or nearly identical alternatives.

    Political parties would nominate candidates knowing those
candidates must be a better choice for voters than "None of
the Above."

    Follow-up by-elections are far less costly than electing
unacceptable candidates to office.

    Office holders, knowing they face "None of the Above" in the
next election, would be encouraged to insure their
re-election by focusing more on doing a good job in office
and less on attempting to prevent the emergence of an
effective opposition candidate.

    When pre-election polls include "None of the Above", the
feedback from voters should help guide candidates and

    Even when "None of the Above" does not win or is a
non-binding NOTA, the reported NOTA vote would help identify
those offices for which voters might be more receptive to new
candidates in a future election as well as limits the
winner's mandate.
    Provides a permanent option for voters to withhold consent
that is independent of expensive and infrequent candidate
based "reform" movements.
    Should make public service more attractive by improving the
quality of those elected to office.

(I've edited out the ones directly related to the US voting

Mark Dennehy,
Computer Vision and Robotics Research Group,
Computer Science Dept., Trinity College Dublin		
email:	Mark.Dennehy at cs.tcd.ie
www:	http://www.cs.tcd.ie/Mark.Dennehy

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