In order for an official NOTA option on the ballot paper to be effective, in the event of it “winning”, a remedial process must be triggered and the election rebooted/rerun with new candidates and/or policies in place.
Logistics: If we had NOTA and it received a majority share of the vote — either nationally at a general election or in specific constituencies at either local or general elections — this should render the corresponding vote count null and void. In the case of specific constituencies choosing NOTA, this should trigger a by-election with new candidates and/or policies. By extension, at a national level, a win for NOTA should trigger a re-run of the whole election with new candidates and/or policies in place.
Clearly, the logistics of having a re-run election and/or by-elections straight after a general election are problematic. For this reason, it is our proposal that to make this process run smoothly with the least disruption, rather than have the by-elections / re-run election happen straight away, the next placed live candidate or party, although beaten by NOTA, should be allowed to take office temporarily while the logistics of the re-run/by-election are put in place, on the understanding that they will occur no less than 6 months and no more than 12 months after the initial election. Without this there would be instant re-runs/by-elections and political instability. This solves that problem.
This proposal could even be modified to take into account the vote share for NOTA and the runners up in different constituencies with a view to staggering by-elections across the year to avoid political instability. For example, a NOTA win by 100% or more of the next placed live candidate or party’s votes could trigger a 6 month delay before the by-election, a NOTA win by up to 100% could trigger a 12 month delay, and so on. In practice, this needn’t be any more or less problematic than the hung parliament scenario of last time round. It would, however, be infinitely more democratic and representative of the will of the electorate.
Ramifications: This system is workable and could deliver real change to UK politics. In the event of a NOTA win, the six month to one year delay before the by-elections / re-run election would give the electorate, parties and election organisers time to prepare for the new election/s. It would also give the next placed live candidate or party (who, although not victorious, will still have pulled a significant share of the vote) an opportunity to prove themselves worthy of being in office ahead of the new election/s, at which they would be free to stand again.
Whether or not the other previously rejected candidates would be allowed to stand again would be an issue for the parties and Electoral Commission to decide. Either way, it would hardly be in the interests of the parties to put forward an unpopular rejected candidate twice.
The upshot would be that all political parties would be forced to have a contingency plan in place if their candidates were roundly rejected the first time round, a plan that would have to involve having more progressive candidates and policies to put forward if need be. Of course, they may well approach this in a public relations, style-over-content manner to begin with — in which case people would be free to reject them via NOTA again if not convinced.
It may take a while, but eventually the parties would learn that they have to start actually representing the electorate in order to be elected. The logical progression from that is that self-serving career politicians would be discouraged from standing in the first place and those of integrity and a genuine will to represent their community would be encouraged.
This is democracy in action — impossible without NOTA, in our view. When seen this way, it becomes clear that voting NOTA, if we could, would not just be a vote against the current system but a vote FOR a better one.