How to Register a Null Vote – Rule 49-O

The elections are coming soon and many of us first time voters are very confused about who to vote for. To add to the confusion, there is this concept called the NO / NULL / NEGATIVE VOTE which is becoming very popular in online discussion forums, highly debated but very ambiguous.

What is a NULL VOTE?

According to the Rule 49-O in the Conduct of Elections, 1961, of India –

49-O. Elector deciding not to vote.- If an elector, after his electoral roll number has been duly entered in the register of voters in Form-17A and has put his signature or thumb impression thereon as required under sub-rule (1) of rule 49L, decided not to record his vote, a remark to this effect shall be made against the said entry in Form 17A by the presiding officer and the signature or thumb impression of the elector shall be obtained against such remark.

How to register a NULL VOTE?

Presently, as the EVMs don’t have any option to select NO candidate, to register a NULL VOTE, one needs to register his details at the polling booth, and then inform the presiding officer that he wishes to vote for nobody, or register a NULL VOTE, or vote against all candidates. In case of paper ballot, one can just stamp the names of multiple candidates or not stamp at all, to waste his vote.

Why should you register a NULL vote?

Hoax: Many people believe that if the number of NULL votes in any election exceeds the votes of the winning candidate, the election will be cancelled and re-conducted. Not only that, the candidature of all the current candidates will be cancelled and each party will have to field new candidates. This seems to be a very powerful way to ensure that no corrupt or criminal candidates are fielded by any party and we get better candidates to choose from.

Reality: However, this is not the truth. There is no clause in the Conduct of Elections that states what has been written above. In the event of null votes, the null votes will be discarded and the winning candidate will still be chosen. No candidates will be barred and no re-polling will be conducted that the candidates will be barred even in the event of a majority NULL vote. So in effect, your NULL vote will have no effect on the results of the election.

Official Clarification –

In December 2008, the Election Commission said in a press release –

“It has been brought to the notice of the Commission that various misleading reports are being circulated though the Press, the electronic media, emails and through SMS to the effect that if the number of voters who choose to exercise their option not to vote for any contesting candidate as provided in Rule 49-O of Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961, exceeds the margin of votes secured by the winning candidate over the runner up, this will invalidate the election and a repoll will be held. It is clarified that under Rule 49-O, the voter has an option not to vote at the election after he has been identified at the polling station and his name has been registered in Registers of voters (Form -17A). The Presiding Officer shall thereupon make a note to that effect against the name of that voter and obtain his signature (thumb impression in the case of an illiterate). In such case, the voters who exercise the option of not voting at the election under Rule 49-O would only be deemed to have abstained themselves from voting and under the law, the candidate who secures highest number of valid votes polled, irrespective of his winning margin, is declared elected.”

So just ignore all the “awakening” chain emails you receive; There is absolutely no difference between you NOT voting and you casting a NULL vote. Neither will have any effect on the result of the elections. Rather refrain from voting if you don’t want to elect any candidate.

Is there any hope?

The Election Commission in 2004, recommended that a provision be made for voters to register NULL or NEGATIVE votes and that a ‘Reject All Candidates’ option be included in EVMs to protect the secrecy of those wishing to cast NULL votes. However, no decision has yet been made on this issue. Several petitions have also been filed to enable NULL voting, but none of them have been acted upon yet. Hopefully, such a concept should be implemented soon.

So if you don’t support any of the candidates, just DON’T VOTE. There is NO such thing as a NO / NULL / NEGATIVE vote as is being said.


49-O – The Real Deal

NDTV – The Debate over 49-O

DNA – The Truth behind 49-O

Wikipedia – 49-O – Conduct of Elections

Note: I don’t guarantee the correctness of the above information. Leave a comment if you want to point out errors or recommend any changes to this post.

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