‘NOTA ballots not relevant when contestants equal seats or if only one candidate is in the fray’

The Election Commission on Monday clarified that if the number of electors who had utilised the NOTA (none of the above candidates) option in the EVM/Ballot paper exceeded the votes polled by any of the candidates, the candidate with the highest number of votes would be declared winner.

In a release, the EC said: “As per the provisions of clause (a) of Rule 64 of Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961, read with Section 65 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, the candidate who has polled the largest number of valid votes is to be declared elected by the Returning Officer. Therefore, even if the number of electors opting for NOTA option is more than the number of votes polled by any of the candidates, the candidate who secures the largest number of votes has to be declared elected”.

Similarly, if the number of contesting candidates is equal to the number of seats to be filled, the Returning Officer has to declare all the contesting candidates to be duly elected. In the case of elections to the Lok Sabha and the Legislative Assemblies, where there is only one contesting candidate in the fray, the RO has to, under the relevant provisions, declare the sole contestant as elected.

“The provision of NOTA option which is an expression of the decision not to vote for the contesting candidates is not relevant in such cases,” the EC said. The Supreme Court, in its verdict on September 27 this year, asked the EC to provide a NOTA option on the EVM and ballot papers so that the electors who did not want to vote for any of the candidates could exercise their option in secrecy.

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