NOTA is here, but do voters know?

NOTA is here, but do voters know?

 NOTA (None Of The Above) may be an option on the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) for the first time as Lok Sabha elections are held in the State on April 17, but there seems to be little or no effort by the Election Commission of India (ECI) to raise awareness about it. 

While the government is spending hundreds of crores on Systematic Voters’ Education And Electoral Participation (SVEEP), there are hardly any efforts to educate the people about NOTA, under which voters can reject all the candidates. First-time voters in urban areas may be aware of NOTA but many others, including well-educated citizens, are not.

“Whatever we have learnt about NOTA is through the Internet and newspapers. We have access to the Internet and the media but what about people in villages,” Rakesh, an IT consultant in Bangalore, said. “Shouldn’t they be aware of this right and exercise it, if they wish to.” 

 The option was introduced for the first time last November during elections to five Assemblies, two months after a Supreme Court order. While the order has been complied with, government and electoral officials in several states did not care to raise awareness about it. 

An official in the ECI conceded that the order clearly stated that election authorities must inform voters about NOTA. At the same time, information about NOTA should be printed in a font smaller than other election-related content in the publicity material. 

It is understandable that all political parties have refrained from publicising the NOTA, according to Prerana, a resident of Domlur. When asked about NOTA, Raju, an autorickshaw driver in the City, said he didn’t know about any such option. “I will vote for the candidate from my caste,” he said curtly. “Why should I waste my vote?” 

But some non-profit organisations and public fora are creating awareness about NOTA. The Vellore Institute of Development Studies (VIDS) has even urged the youth to form a ‘Young Voters’ Front’ for this purpose. 

The Chief Electoral Officer, Anil Kumar Jha, admitted that no special drive on NOTA had been conducted. “That’s because information about NOTA had been available in forms available at the polling booths. Now, NOTA will be there on EVMs as a button. Besides, we have created awareness about NOTA through print and electronic media,” he said. 

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