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Voting "against all", in Russia - and elsewhere?

 
 
nimh
 
Reply Thu 23 Mar, 2006 05:44 pm
In the Obama for '08 thread, I responded to a post of Thomas's about the hypothetical attractiveness of a system where a "none of the above" option is given real teeth. My post goes into quite some detail about the use of the "against all" option in Russian elections, so a thread about Obama's potential candidacy for the US presidency is hardly the likeliest place for it ... So I thought I'd put it in a thread of its own, for those who love political trivia ;-).

-------------------------------------------

Thomas wrote:
If "none of the above" wins a seat, you just leave it empty. The otherwise unsuccessful Weimar Republic had something like it. There was a system of proportional representation, and every party got a seat for every 100,000 votes it got. If parties frustrated their voters with partisan bickering and people stayed home, there would be fewer seats, meaning fewer perks, available to all politicians.

I like the idea. Wink

Ah yes, one of my hobby horses/pet concepts! I'm all for it (in fact, I was pleading for exactly this system here three years ago. That whole thread is interesting btw, Thomas.)

I also like Dys's "voting for anarchy" analogy.

I dont think it exists anywhere to this consistent extent though. There are, however, places that do have the "none of the above" or "against all" option on the ballot. An example I'd been following is Russia.

In Russia, in the 1993 parliamentary elections, 4,2% voted "against all" - quite a lot, considering that those were the first free national elections there in 76 years. In 1995, when the election campaign was more highly polarised between Communists and Yeltsin's forces, only 2,8% did so; but by the time the second (run-off) round of the 1996 Presidential elections came round, with a nasty and even more polarised campaign (in which a newspaper called "Ne Dai Bog" ("God Forbid") was distributed door-to-door to warn against the danger of Communist challenger Zhuganov), the number went up again to 4,8% (source).

Moreover, as noted in this thread, in the 2003 parliamentary elections, too, 4,8% voted "none of the above". That's a baffling 2,8 million Russians who took the trouble to brace the December cold and go to the voting booth to vote against everyone - more votes than for either of the two main liberal/Western-oriented parties, Yabloko and the Union of Rightists, got. (The 4,8% of 1996 amounted to even more Russians - 3,6 million of them - but that was in sunny August. ;-))

In the presidential elections the year after, several smaller groups of both the (far-)left and right as well as organisations like the Nyet Campaign and the Non-governmental Control Group actually campaigned for voters to either boycott the elections or vote "none of the above", and the Central Election Commission was alarmed enough to declare such calls "illegal". That campaign was relatively less successful though, in that only 3,5% ended up voting "against all" (source).

The most prominent appearance of this option though has been in regional elections and the vote for directly elected MPs (the Russian system has been a mix of district seats and national, proportional representation lists). Either last year or the year before, I read an article (but didn't save it, alas) about how in the elections for one region's governor, "none of the above" came in a close third, with almost 20% of the vote. And according to this Time story, "None of the above" was the top vote getter in some constituencies in the 1999 parliamentary elections, forcing re-votes in those districts. Because if more people vote "none of the above" than for any individual candidate, there needs to be a run-off!

That, of course, is rare. It is more commonplace for "against all" to do well when there is an incumbent candidate who faces no contender of significance. "Against all" is then the obvious way to protest this absence of alternatives. A Radio Free Europe item on the gubernatorial elections of 2004 (see this post) mentions two examples: "In [preliminary results from] Krasnodar Krai, Governor Aleksandr Tkachev won a second term with 84.1 percent of the vote, compared with 7.6 percent for "against all," which came in second [..]. In Murmansk Oblast, Governor Yurii Yevdokimov won a third term with 77.1 percent of the vote, according to preliminary results. His closest rival, "against all," received 10.5 percent. Both races were considered by local analysts to be "alternative-less.""

One other country that has at least occasionally used the "none of the above" option is, little known as it may be, the US! Specifically, the state of Nevada includes the option to vote for "NONE OF THESE CANDIDATES" on the ballot and in 1996, 5,608 voters did so - 1,2% of the total number of votes (source). In 2000, 3,315 Nevadans did so - 0.54% of the total (source).

Now what all these examples lack, of course, is enforcement. The option to vote against all is allowed, but remains gratuitous. The exception is where, in Russia, more voters opt for "against all" than any candidate; in that case, forcing a re-run, they wield real power. But otherwise voting "against all" has the same (lack of) effect as not voting at all.

It would indeed only be if the corresponding percentage of seats in parliament were left empty (something that would of course only be possible under proportional representation) that politicians would really get to feel it. I'd bet that if parties would actually get to face, not just political opponents, but swathes of empty seats - forcing them to ally with ever more unpreferred coalition partners to get any majority at all - they would very soon focus on tackling the apathy and alienation of whole strata of voters.

And that is the elephant in the room; more than the voters who still take the trouble to at least vote for someone, even if it's the opponent, it's the share of people who don't believe anyone anymore, who've turned away from the system altogether, that undermines democracy, basically delegitimising its claim to represent the will of the people altogether.
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fishin
 
  1  
Reply Thu 23 Mar, 2006 07:10 pm
There are groups in several states (MA, CA and TN that I know of) that are trying to get "None of the Above" (or "NOTA" as it is better known) options put on ballots. I beleive the NOTA option in NV, while there, is non-binding.
0 Replies
 
Joe Nation
 
  1  
Reply Thu 23 Mar, 2006 07:46 pm
Forty percent of Americans eligible to vote, don't. I consider a large part of that number to be voting "None of the Above" or maybe just "Count me Out". At what percent of non-voting do we declare the Republic dissolved? Fifty-one per cent absent without explanation, then what? Do-overs with new faces?

The other method Americans employ, when given the opportunity, is to vote for a dead candidate, as when Mel Carnahan (dead) beat John Ashcroft in a Senate race. We ended up the losers in that one though, as Ashcroft went on to be named Attorney General by GW Bush, one inept names another. Ashcroft turned out to be at times a publicity hounds and at others, such as when the Senate Intelligence Committee requested a copy of his report on TORTURE, remarkably shy. Possibly the worst AG in history, his defenders can only say "Well, history isn't over yet!".
His illness, though regrettable for him, saved us all.


Joe(I'd be for write-ins, but no one can read my writing.)Nation
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2PacksAday
 
  1  
Reply Thu 23 Mar, 2006 08:39 pm
Joe Nation wrote:
The other method Americans employ, when given the opportunity, is to vote for a dead candidate, as when Mel Carnahan (dead) beat John Ashcroft in a Senate race.



Yes, an odd day indeed in Missouri history.

The "dead guy" winning is a bit misleading....it was too late to remove Mel's name from the ballot, it was Mrs. Carnahan who was the actual canadate voted into office.
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Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Fri 24 Mar, 2006 12:54 am
nimh wrote:
And that is the elephant in the room; more than the voters who still take the trouble to at least vote for someone, even if it's the opponent, it's the share of people who don't believe anyone anymore, who've turned away from the system altogether, that undermines democracy, basically delegitimising its claim to represent the will of the people altogether.

Not just democracy, any other form of government too. As Dys says, it's like a vote for anarchy. Thanks for your survey of "none of the above" countries. Very interesting! Needless to say, I like the idea. Ideally, however, there ought to be a way for a `vote for anarchy' to actually diminish the legislative's power to govern people. Does anybody have an idea how this aspect could be built into the system?
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msolga
 
  1  
Reply Fri 24 Mar, 2006 01:29 am
I can fully appreciate that concept, nimh. The fact that you've voted (& theoretically endorsed) the worst of a bad bunch is not very satisfying at all. Then the winning candidate (or their party leader) claims some sort of "mandate" for for all sorts of policies & initiatives that you might find thoroughly distasteful! This is my problem when voting in my own country. (Australia) Neither of the (2) major parties appeal to me right now. Neither addresses the concerns that are really important to me & many people I know. They are both too far to the right. I have taken to voting for a minority party (Oz Greens) that comes closer to the ideals that I value. But, really, they are a minority group here & don't have all that much influence on what actually happens. Sad I would really like to tell the major parties that they are complacent & out of touch with the issues that many people consider of vital importance! I would like to tell them to lift their game & to get back in touch with many of us who feel thoroughly disillusioned & alienated with the whole political process as it stands, right now. It is almost as if ordinary voters are irrelevant to their agenda/s.
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Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Fri 24 Mar, 2006 01:33 am
During the last some dozen of years I've been sitting hundreds of hours counting votes at various elections I've seen a lot of apparently deliberately "spoiled" ballot papers.

I've always thought that to be a very responsible of those voters - I agree that a "none of above" offer would be fairer ... and most probably attract more voters.
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georgeob1
 
  1  
Reply Fri 24 Mar, 2006 02:08 am
Thomas wrote:
Ideally, however, there ought to be a way for a `vote for anarchy' to actually diminish the legislative's power to govern people. Does anybody have an idea how this aspect could be built into the system?


How can you "diminish the legislature's -power to govern people"? Do you mean a net reduction in governance - whatever that might mean? Perhaps some reduction in the Legislature's power to enact change? How would you construct a rule for that? In the Weimar system you summarily described, am I correct in interpreting you to mean that with a low voter turnout the number of legislators was reduced? if so a general public rejection would yield an autocracy, not anarchy. However lovely were some of its characteristics, the Weimar republic was unable to either resolve or even find a tolerable balance amidst the political storms that then beset Germany. Not a particularly good model, I'd say.

It seems to me that the essence of effective democratic politics and governance is pragmatic choices between available alternatives. The process is real, not theoretical. 'None of the above' is a rejection of the process itself. While this may often be a real individual preference, I don't think it is a beneficial addition to any democratic process - unless it can lead to the outcome of actually rejecting all of the candidates and the initiation of yet another election..
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Fri 24 Mar, 2006 03:09 am
georgeob1 wrote:
Thomas wrote:
Ideally, however, there ought to be a way for a `vote for anarchy' to actually diminish the legislative's power to govern people. Does anybody have an idea how this aspect could be built into the system?


How can you "diminish the legislature's -power to govern people"? Do you mean a net reduction in governance - whatever that might mean?

Yes, that's what I mean, and I don't know how it can be done -- that's why I was asking if someone had an idea.

georgeob1 wrote:
In the Weimar system you summarily described, am I correct in interpreting you to mean that with a low voter turnout the number of legislators was reduced? if so a general public rejection would yield an autocracy, not anarchy.

I agree -- while a system of "fewer votes means fewer seats for everybody" gives the political class a reason to make voters care, but it doesn't foster anarchy, or even less-archy. (We need such a word!) Again, that's why I was asking for ideas to make it so.
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Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Fri 24 Mar, 2006 03:14 am
Weimar Voting System - in German only.
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nimh
 
  1  
Reply Fri 24 Mar, 2006 04:50 am
Joe Nation wrote:
Fifty-one per cent absent without explanation, then what? Do-overs with new faces?

Wouldn't be such a bad idea, would it?..

Thanks Fishin', for the extra info!

MsOlga, true - but at least you have, in Australia, another alternative I greatly like, I believe, and which I think would definitely be an improvement for EU & US politics too - the transferable vote. Right?

From what I understood, you are able to express, on the ballot, a first preference and a second preference, and if your first choice doesn't make the top 2, then your vote is transferred to the second preference you expressed, if (s)he did make the top two - did I get that right? It's like having a run-off system without forcing the voters to go to the voting booth on two subsequent dates ... brilliant.

It would have a definite impact - on the one hand, in a country like the US, allowing third parties to more easily gain public attention and a membership base, making the devlopment of an alternative to the two main parties less impossible; on the other hand, in a country like the UK, it would have probably made it impossible for someone like Thatcher to implement such a drastic (and impopular) reform program on the basis of getting no more than 44% in any of her elections, and in the face of two opposition parties who both opposed it and together pooled an actual majority in the polls.
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Fri 24 Mar, 2006 05:15 am
nimh wrote:
Joe Nation wrote:
Fifty-one per cent absent without explanation, then what? Do-overs with new faces?

Wouldn't be such a bad idea, would it?..

Thanks Fishin', for the extra info!

Throw darts at a telephonebook blindfolded, and draft every name the darts hit? That would give us a much higher percentage of rulers who don't really want to govern us. (As readers of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy know, we don't want to be ruled by the kind of people who enjoy ruling.)
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nimh
 
  1  
Reply Fri 24 Mar, 2006 05:20 am
Thomas wrote:
Throw darts at a telephonebook blindfolded, and draft every name the darts hit?

No - if over 50% doesn't vote, tell the political parties that their candidates have been rejected and they will just have to come up with new ones. Hopefully, not wanting to see the whole (expensive) process repeated ad infinitum, they will then not opt for a clone of their previous candidate.
0 Replies
 
Joe Nation
 
  1  
Reply Fri 24 Mar, 2006 11:26 am
nimh wrote:
Thomas wrote:
Throw darts at a telephonebook blindfolded, and draft every name the darts hit?

No - if over 50% doesn't vote, tell the political parties that their candidates have been rejected and they will just have to come up with new ones. Hopefully, not wanting to see the whole (expensive) process repeated ad infinitum, they will then not opt for a clone of their previous candidate.


I am with you on this. If the political parties can't engender fifty per cent VOLUNTARY participation in national elections then maybe they should have to come up with new candidates or new policy proposals or both.

Then again, considering the level of political knowledge of the average US shopper at the mall, maybe we should start a "Never you mind" campaign encouraging even more voters to stay home and stay out of it.

Joe(keep out the deadwood and the deadheads)Nation
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fbaezer
 
  1  
Reply Fri 24 Mar, 2006 01:10 pm
Interesting thread.
In Italy there was the "blank ballot" option, meaning "none of the above" and distinctly different from the "null ballot" where the voter makes a mistake and invalids his vote.
For historical fear of fraud, we have no such thing in Mexico. Until a few years ago, there was an empty space for fill-in names (I used it and voted for myself on my first time at the polls, in 1973). Not anymore. Parties are seen as the only legitimate vehicle for reppresentation.
I think this is fair in any modern democracy, as long as there are not big locks against putting your party on the ballot.
Personally, this year I would have loved to see a "NOTA" space on the upcoming Mexican elections. The options are all dismal.
0 Replies
 
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Fri 24 Mar, 2006 10:07 pm
nimh wrote:
MsOlga, true - but at least you have, in Australia, another alternative I greatly like, I believe, and which I think would definitely be an improvement for EU & US politics too - the transferable vote. Right?

From what I understood, you are able to express, on the ballot, a first preference and a second preference, and if your first choice doesn't make the top 2, then your vote is transferred to the second preference you expressed, if (s)he did make the top two - did I get that right? It's like having a run-off system without forcing the voters to go to the voting booth on two subsequent dates ... brilliant.

It would have a definite impact - on the one hand, in a country like the US, allowing third parties to more easily gain public attention and a membership base, making the devlopment of an alternative to the two main parties less impossible; on the other hand, in a country like the UK, it would have probably made it impossible for someone like Thatcher to implement such a drastic (and impopular) reform program on the basis of getting no more than 44% in any of her elections, and in the face of two opposition parties who both opposed it and together pooled an actual majority in the polls.


Brilliant in theory, nimh, but unfortunately the third (& fourth) parties here have never really become seriously viable alternatives to "the big 2". Nor have they had the hoped for impact on the traditional parties that hold power. Right now one of them, the Democrats (whose platform was "keep the bastards honest". (!) ), has become so insignificant to voters that many political analysts are openly asking if they should fold. At best, the Democrats & the Greens (the 2 main minority parties now) have had their moments of glory in the polls over particular single issues, but have not had broad appeal with voters on a range of issues. Often, too, they have been used as a "protest vote" for folk who are disenchanted with the major party they usually support, rather than completely change sides & vote for the other major party. And when it comes to the preferential voting system, people equate the Greens with Labor & say, the Democratic Labor Party (DLP - a now defunct right wing break-away group from the Australian Labor Party. It was quite powerful in its day.) with the Liberals (conservatives). So, even though someone might have given their second vote to the Greens, in effect it has (in most cases) been a de facto vote for Labor. Ditto with the DLP & Family First (new values/religious party.) and the Liberals. So really, a first, or second or third preferential vote for the DLP was in effect a vote for the Liberal Party. Therefore the minority parties have had little impact on breaking down the power of the two major parties, apart from isolated examples when, say, a particular senator from a minority party has held the balance of power in a hung senate. After the initial excitement & novelty of a new party, they've tended to become simply an adjunct to the big, established parties, rather than bring about real change. A real shame, but that's the way it's worked here.
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msolga
 
  1  
Reply Fri 24 Mar, 2006 11:03 pm
Just remembered this little piece of graffiti, on a wall in the London underground, a long time ago:

Don't vote.
It just encourages them.
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nimh
 
  1  
Reply Sun 13 Aug, 2006 03:36 pm
Oh no!!

"On Jun. 30, the State Duma voted 347-87 to approve a plan that will remove the "against all candidates" box from the ballots in time for the 2007 legislative election and the 2008 presidential election."

... <sighs>

Quote:
Russians Divided Over Electoral Reforms

Angus Reid Global Scan : Polls & Research
August 8, 2006

Adults in Russia are divided over a recent change to their political system, according to a poll by the All-Russian Public Opinion Research Center. 46 per cent of respondents oppose the cancellation of the "against all candidates" option, while 42 per cent think it was the right decision.

Russian president Vladimir Putin earned a second term in March 2004 with 71.31 per cent of all cast ballots. In that election, 3.45 per cent of all voters ticked the "against all candidates" box.

On Jun. 30, the State Duma voted 347-87 to approve a plan that will remove the "against all candidates" box from the ballots in time for the 2007 legislative election and the 2008 presidential election.

On Jul. 8, the State Duma voted 341-100 to allow for the return of early voting, which the Russian Federation had tried and abandoned. 67 per cent of respondents support this change.

Last month, Central Election Commission (CEC) head Alexander Veshnyakov expressed disappointment with the situation, saying,

"If this law is passed in the current form, it would discredit elections and violate citizen's electoral rights in such a form it won't be elections, but something else."
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