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None of the Above

category national | elections / politics | opinion/analysis author Monday December 03, 2018 20:44author by Joseph James Report this post to the editors

Why it needs to be on the ballot paper and how to put it there.

This article argues for the inclusion of a "None of the above" option on all ballot papers in an election. It starts by explaining the benefits of its inclusion. Then it demonstrates how its inclusion can be achieved through activism.

It is my belief that “None of the above” should be on the ballot paper for all elections. It is for people that want to exercise their right to vote but do not want to vote for any of the candidates. It is an efficient protest vote. A protest vote is one way a voter can express their frustration with the choice of candidates and or government. An Inefficient protest vote is where the frustrated voter votes for an extreme candidate. Voting for an extreme candidate could potentially cause their country a lot of harm. Instead they could tick the box beside none of the above.

Governments are very reluctant to pass a law that puts none of the above on the ballot paper, as it will punish all politicians in an election. Placing it on the ballot paper tends to reduce the winning margins in election. This means that political parties would be more reluctant to select candidates with a history of corruption. Also “None of the Above” on the ballot paper would increase turnout. Previously, those dissatisfied with the choice of candidates would have stayed at home. As voter turnout is much lower than it was in the past, a Government facing fears of their legitimacy could pass a law making it illegal for people not to vote. In certain countries it is illegal not to vote. There is a fear that that could happen in democracies around the world because of low voter turnout. A Government that passes such laws cannot be called democratic.

No need to fret though because there is potentially a way to force politicians to include “None of the above” on the ballot paper for all elections. The idea is to change one’s name by deed poll to “None of the above” and then stand for election. There is also the probable benefit of appearing first on the ballot paper with the surname “Above”. In the unlikely event that the candidate wins, they simply don’t take up the position. If this were to become a law, it could be that the office/seat remains vacant for the term or another election is held with nominations reopened.

So with that idea in mind one remembers that there are European and Local elections in Ireland in May 2019. We will start with Europe first. There are three constituencies in Ireland for the European elections. According to the citizens information website one must be at least 21 years of age to apply. The candidate must then get sixty statutory declarations of registered voters in their constituency. A statutory declaration is a signed legal document and a Solicitor, Notary Public, Peace Commissioner or Commissioner for Oaths must witness it. So, basically sixty registered voters sign a form nominating you as a candidate. An alternative is to pay a deposit of 1800E or produce a certificate of Party Affiliation. However it is unlikely any party that has seats in the Dail would want to be associated with this idea and there’s better ways to spend 1800E. The candidate must then hand in their nomination paper to the returning officer for their constituency. The returning officer can object to the candidate’s nomination if;

• It’s not the name by which the candidate is commonly known by. It’s not, but it is legally the candidate’s name. Besides if the candidate changed their name in December 2018 they could be commonly known as “None of the above” by May 2019. The returning officer has only sixty minutes to decide whether to accept or decline the nomination paper, so it is unclear how they could determine what name the candidate is commonly known by in such a short space of time.
• If the candidates name is likely to cause confusion. If the returning officer says “None of the above” could cause confusion then that’s highly insulting to the Irish electorate.
• If it is unnecessarily long or if it contains a political reference.

Now we move on to the Local elections. There is a week for nominating candidates to stand at local election, taking place four weeks before the polling day. One needs to be at least eighteen years old to stand. You can nominate yourself and it is possible to stand in more than one area. The candidate needs fifteen statutory declarations from registered voters in the constituency to stand or they can lodge a deposit of 100E. The returning officer can reject if;

• the candidate didn’t get enough statutory declarations or
• the form is not filled out properly or signed.

So it appears to be easier to get “none of the above” on the ballot paper for local elections than for European elections. It would be great to see everybody in the Republic of Ireland having the option of voting for none of the above. So it is easier from that perspective to get three radicals to change their name by deed poll rather than thirty one (three constituencies in Ireland for the European elections and Thirty one for the Local elections). Another benefit would be that you would do it on a European level so the most powerful politicians in European would be forced to discuss and debate the motion of “should none of the above be included on all election ballot papers”? If that were to happen it would be a great success for the movement. A success like that would capture the imagination of the wider public and we could see real change.

Hopefully, it is possible that enough people are inspired by this article to change their name by deed poll and stand for election, so that none of the above will be on the ballot paper for both the Local and European elections.

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