Does Negative Vote have Positive Representation? – A Socio-Legal Study


The concept of a negative vote is not very complex. However, it has not yet been practiced in any democracy in the world. During elections, people usually cast their votes for a candidate they think is best suitable to represent the people and work for the betterment of society. But what happens when a person dislikes all candidates sitting for elections? The only option that remains today is to avoid going to the election polls or casting an invalid vote as a means of protest. 

According to an article from the Negative Vote Association, a Negative Vote is a vote cast against a candidate, and it will be counted against the positive votes cast for that candidate.  The candidate who receives the most net positive votes wins. Each voter still has only one vote and he/she has the option to cast that vote for a candidate or against a candidate but not both.

The Viewpoints of Negative Vote

Negative voting is a Copernican revolution in democracy. Hence, it changes the spirit of representative politics, allowing the public to voice out their feelings and take action according to what they truly feel and represent. This will give them the right and also an opportunity to say “no” while contributing to reconstructing the subject matter of politics and promoting social conscience.

There exist many contrary views and opinions regarding this concept of Negative voting.  Politicians are skeptical about its implementation and are not very sure about how it will truly lead to the betterment of the public. They believe that with the introduction of negative voting, more burden of extra expenses will be imposed while conducting such elections. Further, the presence of a large number of existing political parties in India would account for a delay in the process. It would incite hatred and would also strengthen political opposition. 

On the other hand, others are of a positive viewpoint in this regard. According to an article from The Indian Express, it is stated that Considering the shortcomings and demerits of the current electoral systems we are proposing negative voting as a method of elections. What we are suggesting is a revolutionary shift in the way in which elections are organized.  Furthermore, it also mentions how in such a system, the candidates would be more focused on working and addressing the needs of all sections of society, rather than a polarization-based strategy which is being popularly practiced in the present scenario.

Thus, keeping in mind both the political structure as well as the goodwill of the public, the voters should be able to use their right to vote for choosing a candidate that they support and at the same time for voting against a candidate that they feel is incompetent. Such a practice would therefore not restrict civil participation in political affairs. The current democratic vote system only permits supporters to vote for a single candidate, while opponents must resort to passively agreeing not to vote, or to cast an invalid vote, or sometimes even to an extent of voting against their discretion. Hence, such a practice is unfair and also acts against the true meaning of democracy and liberty.

The Honourable Supreme Court of India on 27th September 2013, ratified a negative voting system. This allowed people in India to cast negative votes in elections, following the footsteps of 14 other counties. 

Repercussions of Negative Vote in a Democratic Set-Up

Positive Repercussions

  • With the Adoption of the Negative Vote, Number of Participants will Increase: Looking at the actual picture, an increase in the number of participants subsequently is an advancement of democracy. With more participants, the outcome will represent a vivid picture of people’s will. In the present system with no option other than to say “yes”, the conqueror often boasts about how he/she has received the “popular mandate” when the truth lies somewhere else. Amidst all the chaos, the “no” voices were never heard at all. Thus, with the introduction of such a concept, the ‘elected’ will be able to see a clear picture of the process leading to his/her victory. This will provide a gateway for future leaders to be humbler and more responsible. 
  • Portraying the True Meaning of Democracy and Liberty: In a democratic country, people are considered supreme and have also been assured their voting rights. With this in mind, a voter should have the liberty to use their ballot to state their grievances against any candidate. Thus, saying “no” against any candidate does not make them undemocratic. This flaw that exists in the present election systems must be repaired. 
  • A Sense of Responsibility and the Fear of not being elected in the Future: Negative voting imposes upon the political parties the duty to be more responsible and take into account the concerns from all sections of the society, starting from the grass-root level. If they fail to perform in such a manner, there emerges a fear of not being able to secure a seat in the legislature; the public may or may not vote for such an inefficient candidate. 
  • The Breakdown of Barriers: Since there are various cases regarding wrongdoings and negligence concerning political parties during elections; this will be eliminated and the existing narrow barriers for fresh and new candidates will significantly increase in number. With the implementation of such a system, there will soon come a time when the country will receive good law and policymakers.

Negative Perspective

  • The Practical Difficulties while handling run-off Elections: The elections conducted for the Legislative Assemblies are not done in a single day. Various important details need not be overlooked, and because of these lengthy processes, elections usually are conducted for a period of two or more days. Therefore, introducing a run-off election means altogether a fresh election (i.e., reprinting of new ballot papers, stationing police officers for maintaining order and peace in those areas, etc). 
  • Literacy Rate and Voting based on one’s Caste or Religion: Since India is a country consisting of diverse castes, races, religions, ethnicity, etc; this would lead to a majority of the voters casting their vote for the candidate belonging to their particular category.  The general public is not much informed or aware about the candidate’s identity or profile; so in that case, the concept of negative voting will not fulfill or achieve its ultimate purpose, unless there are some actions taken to get rid of this problem. 

Socio-Legal Impacts of Negative Voting

The system of negative voting has its own merits and demerits. With this concept being adopted in the legal framework, it will surely bring about a huge change in the country’s socio-legal aspect. Every citizen of India, above the age of 18 years, has been given voting rights under Article 326 of the Indian Constitution and also under Section 62 of the Representation of the  People Act. However, the Election Commission after receiving several proposals from various scholars as well as organizations, recommended that the law ought to be amended to include the provision of negative/neutral voting. Accordingly, Rules 22 and 49B of the Conduct of Election Rules were amended and an option of “none of the above” was included in the ballot papers.

As previously mentioned, it will allow a greater number of voters to be involved in the process of elections; the people will start evaluating the leaders more critically; it will also establish heated competitions among different political parties to maintain good performance to secure its people’s trust in the next election. 

Negative voting can surely bring improvements in a democratic nation through its option of casting a negative vote. It will generate a sense of responsibility both on the sides of the voter as well as the candidates. It is so because a voter has to carefully analyze his/her vote to elect a good representative and disapprove of the ineligible one. If seen from a different viewpoint, this system may also affect the lower strata of society because the candidates might offer them some amount of money in exchange for a vote. This is also an aspect that will affect the functioning and impact the election results. 

In the legal sphere, it will put pressure on the authorities to act according to the public’s best interests. There will also be several other issues that must be addressed. The Apex Court in a judgment stated that Negative voting would foster purity and vibrancy in elections and negative voting would bring a systematic change in the election process as the political parties will be forced to project clean candidates in polls. Therefore, the legal structure would be functioning in such a manner where there is no such restriction or limitation imposed on people’s voting rights. 


In conclusion, negative voting can act as a reliable and efficient method in which the people have a very important role to play. Elections are no doubt the only means through which the representatives become aware of their drawbacks and inefficiency in governing. Therefore, for them to acknowledge their gaps, negative voting can become a step closer to that goal.  

In any democracy, elections are very important since voting is the accepted method for legitimizing authorities and administration. Therefore, negative voting can lead to a high possibility of political turn-out and establishing or producing good and able leaders. There exists no such thing as ‘no right to vote’; every individual is ensured with basic rights and they must exercise them to their fullest.

Editor’s Note
The right to vote is one of the most important rights guaranteed by any democratic nation in general, and by the Constitution of India, in particular. This article explains the concept of negative voting in elections. The author discusses the repercussions of negative voting in a democratic setup like India, from both- positive as well as negative perspectives. The author also throws light upon the socio-legal impacts of negative voting. Lastly, the author has concluded by saying that negative voting can act as a reliable and efficient method through which the representatives become aware of their drawbacks and inefficiency in governing.

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