Abstention

Last updated

Abstention is a term in election procedure for when a participant in a vote either does not go to vote (on election day) or, in parliamentary procedure, is present during the vote, but does not cast a ballot. [1] Abstention must be contrasted with "blank vote", in which a voter casts a ballot willfully made invalid by marking it wrongly or by not marking anything at all. A "blank (or white) voter" has voted, although their vote may be considered a spoilt vote, depending on each legislation, while an abstaining voter has not voted. Both forms (abstention and blank vote) may or may not, depending on the circumstances, be considered to be a protest vote (also known as a "blank vote" or "white vote").

Contents

An abstention may be used to indicate the voting individual's ambivalence about the measure, or mild disapproval that does not rise to the level of active opposition. Abstention can also be used when someone has a certain position about an issue, but since the popular sentiment supports the opposite, it might not be politically expedient to vote according to his or her conscience. A person may also abstain when they do not feel adequately informed about the issue at hand, or have not participated in relevant discussion. In parliamentary procedure, a member may be required to abstain in the case of a real or perceived conflict of interest. [2] [3]

Abstentions do not count in tallying the vote negatively or positively; when members abstain, they are in effect attending only to contribute to a quorum. White votes, however, may be counted in the total of votes, depending on the legislation.

Active abstention

An active abstention can occur where a voter votes in a way that balances out their vote as if they had never voted. This has occurred many times in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom. During a division (a process where a yes/no vote occurs to agree or disagree to a motion), a Member of Parliament may actively abstain by voting both "yes" and "no". This is effectively the same as not voting at all, as the outcome will not be changed by the active abstention. [4] However, in the House of Lords of the United Kingdom, active abstention is not possible as a Lord voting both ways will be removed from the list of votes. [5]

In another manner, an intentionally spoilt vote could be interpreted as an active abstention. An intentionally spoilt vote is caused by a voter who turns to an election and invalidates the ballot paper in some way. Because of the nature of an abstention, only intentionally spoiled ballots could be counted as an active abstention.[ citation needed ]

International and national parliamentary procedures

Comparative results of 2011 Canadian federal election with or without abstention Canadaelections2011.png
Comparative results of 2011 Canadian federal election with or without abstention

In the United Nations Security Council, representatives of the five countries holding a veto power (the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia and China) sometimes abstain rather than vetoing a measure about which they are less than enthusiastic, particularly if the measure otherwise has broad support. By convention, their abstention does not block the measure.[ citation needed ] If a majority of members of the United Nations General Assembly or one of its committees abstain on a measure, then the measure fails.

In the Council of the European Union, an abstention on a matter decided by unanimity has the effect of a yes vote; on matters decided by qualified majority it has an effect of a no vote.

In the United States House of Representatives and many other legislatures, members may vote "present" rather than for or against a bill or resolution, which has the effect of an abstention.

In the United States Senate, the Presiding Officer calls each senator's name alphabetically, and, if abstaining, the senator must give a reason for the abstention. Members may decline to vote, in committee or on the floor, on any matter which he or she believes would be a conflict of interest. [6]

When a senator is nominated for a position that needs to be confirmed by the Senate, that senator is expected to vote "present",[ citation needed ] such as occurred in 2013 when John Kerry was nominated for the position of Secretary of State and voted "present" rather than vote for his own confirmation.

Justification

In support for this non-political strategy, some non-voters claim that voting does not make any positive difference. "If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal," is an oft-cited sentiment attributed to anarchist Emma Goldman. [7]

In addition to strategic non-voters, there are also ethical non-voters, those who reject voting outright, not merely as an ineffective tactic for change, but moreover because they view the act as either a grant of consent to be governed by the state, a means of imposing illegitimate control over one's countrymen, or both. Thus, this view holds that through voting, one necessarily finds themselves violating the non-aggression principle. Herbert Spencer noted that whether a person votes for the winning candidate, votes for a losing candidate, or abstains from voting, he will be deemed to have consented to the rule of the winning candidate, if they were to follow the doctrine of Blackstone of which Spencer stated "A rather awkward doctrine this. " [8]

Criticisms

Murray Rothbard, while a libertarian himself, criticized the New Libertarian Manifesto 's arguments that voting is immoral or undesirable: [9]

Let's put it this way: Suppose we were slaves in the Old South, and that for some reason, each plantation had a system where the slaves were allowed to choose every four years between two alternative masters. Would it be evil, and sanctioning slavery, to participate in such a choice? Suppose one master was a monster who systematically tortured all the slaves, while the other one was kindly, enforced almost no work rules, freed one slave a year, or whatever. It would seem to me not only not aggression to vote for the kinder master but idiotic if we failed to do so. Of course, there might well be circumstances—say when both masters are similar—where the slaves would be better off not voting in order to make a visible protest—but this is a tactical not a moral consideration. Voting would not be evil but, in such a case, less effective than the protest. But if it is morally licit and nonaggressive for slaves to vote for a choice of masters, in the same way it is licit for us to vote for what we believe the lesser of two or more evils, and still more beneficial to vote for an avowedly libertarian candidates.

Samuel Edward Konkin III responded: [10]

Can you imagine slaves on a plantation sitting around voting for masters and spending their energy on campaigning and candidates when they could be heading for the “underground railway?” Surely they would choose the counter-economic alternative; surely Dr. Rothbard would urge them to do so and not be seduced into remaining on the plantation until the Abolitionist Slavemasters' Party is elected.

See also

Related Research Articles

Score voting or range voting is an electoral system for single-seat elections, in which voters give each candidate a score, the scores are added, and the candidate with the highest total is elected. It has been described by various other names including evaluative voting, utilitarian voting, interval measure voting, the point system, ratings summation, 0-99 voting, average voting and utilityvoting. It is a type of cardinal voting electoral system, and aims to implement the utilitarian social choice rule.

Libertarian Party (United States) National political party in the United States

The Libertarian Party (LP) is a political party in the United States that promotes civil liberties, non-interventionism, laissez-faire capitalism, and limiting the size and scope of government. The party was conceived in August 1971 at meetings in the home of David F. Nolan in Westminster, Colorado, and was officially formed on December 11, 1971 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The founding of the party was prompted in part due to concerns about the Nixon administration, the Vietnam War, conscription, and the introduction of fiat money.

Voting Method for a group to make a collective decision or express an opinion

Voting is a method for a group, such as a meeting or an electorate, in order to make a collective decision or express an opinion usually following discussions, debates or election campaigns. Democracies elect holders of high office by voting. Residents of a place represented by an elected official are called "constituents", and those constituents who cast a ballot for their chosen candidate are called "voters". There are different systems for collecting votes, but while many of the systems used in decision-making can also be used as electoral systems, any which cater for proportional representation can only be used in elections.

A majority, also called a simple majority to distinguish it from similar terms, is the greater part, or more than half, of the total. It is a subset of a set consisting of more than half of the set's elements. For example, if a group consists of 20 individuals, a majority would be 11 or more individuals, while having 10 or fewer individuals would not constitute a majority. "Majority" can be used to specify the voting requirement, as in a "majority vote", which means more than half of the votes cast.

Elections in the United States refers to the rules and procedures regulating the conditions under which a candidate, political party, or ballot measure is entitled to appear on voters' ballots. As the nation's election process is decentralized by Article I, Section 4, of the United States Constitution, ballot access laws are established and enforced by the states. As a result, ballot access processes may vary from one state to another. State access requirements for candidates generally pertain to personal qualities of a candidate, such as: minimum age, residency, citizenship, and being a qualified voter. Additionally, many states require prospective candidates to collect a specified number of qualified voters' signatures on petitions of support and mandate the payment of filing fees before granting access; ballot measures are similarly regulated. Each state also regulates how political parties qualify for automatic ballot access, and how those minor parties that do not can. Fundamental to democracy, topics related to ballot access are the subject of considerable debate in the United States.

Protest vote

A protest vote is a vote cast in an election to demonstrate dissatisfaction with the choice of candidates or the current political system. Protest voting takes a variety of forms and reflects numerous voter motivations, including political alienation.

"None of the above", or NOTA for short, also known as "against all" or a "scratch" vote, is a ballot option in some jurisdictions or organizations, designed to allow the voter to indicate disapproval of the candidates in a voting system. It is based on the principle that consent requires the ability to withhold consent in an election, just as they can by voting "No" on ballot questions.

Unanimity is agreement by all people in a given situation. Groups may consider unanimous decisions as a sign of e.g. social, political or procedural agreement, solidarity, and unity. Unanimity may be assumed explicitly after a unanimous vote or implicitly by a lack of objections. It does not necessarily mean uniformity and can sometimes be the opposite of majority in terms of outcomes.

Faithless elector Member of the US Electoral College who does not vote for the candidate for whom they had pledged to vote

In the United States Electoral College, a faithless elector is an elector who does not vote for the candidates for U.S. President and U.S. Vice President for whom the elector had pledged to vote and instead votes for another person for one or both offices or abstains from voting. As part of United States presidential elections, each state selects the method by which its electors are to be selected, which in modern times has been based on a popular vote in most states, and generally requires its electors to have pledged to vote for the candidates of their party if appointed. A pledged elector is only considered a faithless elector by breaking their pledge; unpledged electors have no pledge to break. The consequences of an elector voting in a way inconsistent with their pledge vary from state to state.

Spoilt vote Ballot that is invalid and not counted

In voting, a ballot is considered spoilt, spoiled, void, null, informal, invalid or stray if a law declares or an election authority determines that it is invalid and thus not included in the vote count. This may occur accidentally or deliberately. The total number of spoilt votes in a United States election has been called the residual vote. In Australia, such votes are generally referred to as informal votes, and in Canada they are referred to as rejected votes.

Elections in California Overview of the procedure of elections in the U.S. state of California

Elections in California are held to fill various local, state and federal seats. In California, regular elections are held every even year ; however, some seats have terms of office that are longer than two years, so not every seat is on the ballot in every election. Special elections may be held to fill vacancies at other points in time. Recall elections can also be held. Additionally, statewide initiatives, legislative referrals and referenda may be on the ballot.

Repeated Ballot – bodies that use parliamentary procedure to arrive at decisions – use several methods of voting on motions. The regular methods of voting in such bodies are a voice vote, a rising vote, and a show of hands. Additional forms of voting include a recorded vote and balloting.

In parliamentary procedure, the motion to amend is used to modify another motion. An amendment could itself be amended. A related procedure is filling blanks in a motion.

New Libertarian Manifesto is a libertarian philosophical treatise by Samuel Edward Konkin III. It is the first explanation of agorism, a philosophy created by Konkin. Konkin proffers various arguments of how a free society would function as well as examples of existing gray and black markets. It contains criticisms of using political or violent means and advocates non-politics with non-voting as a strategy. Finally, Konkin describes the steps of using the black market to dismantle the state, a strategy known as counter-economics.

Instant-runoff voting (IRV), also sometimes referred to as the alternative vote (AV), preferential voting, or, in the United States, ranked-choice voting (RCV), though these names are also used for other systems, is a type of ranked preferential voting counting method used in single-seat elections with more than two candidates.

2010 United States Senate election in Alaska

The 2010 United States Senate election in Alaska took place on November 2, 2010, to elect a member of the United States Senate to represent the State of Alaska, alongside 33 U.S. Senate elections in other states, elections in all states for the U.S. House of Representatives, as well as various state and local elections.

2000 United States House of Representatives election in Alaska

The Alaska congressional election of 2000 was held on Tuesday, November 7, 2000. The term of the state's sole Representative to the United States House of Representatives expired on January 3, 2001. The winning candidate would serve a two-year term from January 3, 2001, to January 3, 2003. Alaska allows the political party to select the person who can appear for party primary. They are submitting a written notice with a copy of their cleared by-laws to the Director of Elections no later than September 1 of the year prior to the year in which a primary election is to be held.

In the United States, a contingent election is the procedure used to elect the president or vice president in the event that no candidate for one or both of these offices wins an absolute majority of votes in the Electoral College. A presidential contingent election is decided by a special vote of the United States House of Representatives, while a vice-presidential contingent election is decided by a vote of the United States Senate. During a contingent election in the House, each state's delegation casts one en bloc vote to determine the president, rather than a vote from each representative. Senators, on the other hand, cast votes individually for vice president.

Electoral systems are the rules for conducting elections, a main component of which is the algorithm for determining the winner from the ballots cast. This article discusses the justifications which have been offered for different algorithms, both those which elect a unique candidate from a ‘single-winner’ election and those which elect a group of representatives from a multiwinner election. The choice between the two types of election is a political question not discussed here.

Combined approval voting (CAV) is an electoral system where each voter may express approval, disapproval, or indifference toward each candidate. The winner is the most-approved candidate.

References

  1. "Frequently Asked Questions about RONR (Question 6)". The Official Robert's Rules of Order Web Site. The Robert's Rules Association.
  2. Hernandez, Raymond and Christopher Drew (7 December 2007). "It's Not Just 'Ayes' and 'Nays': Obama's Votes in Illinois Echo". The New York Times.
  3. "Frequently Asked Questions about RONR (Question 9)". The Official Robert's Rules of Order Web Site. The Robert's Rules Association.
  4. Voted both aye and no – from The Public Whip. Published 24 April 2012 and retrieved 4 May 2012.
  5. Recording Abstentions by Lord Norton, from lordsoftheblog.net. Published 20 February 2011 and retrieved 4 May 2011.
  6. "Voting Procedure". Rules of the United States Senate. Archived from the original on 1 June 2011. Retrieved 25 July 2011.
  7. Goldman's actual writings expressed a distinct sentiment: "There is no hope even that woman, with her right to vote, will ever purify politics." Goldman, Emma (1911), "The Tragedy of Women's Emancipation", Anarchism and Other Essays (Second revised ed.), Mother Earth Publishing Association, pp. 219–31
  8. Spencer, Herbert (1851), The Right to Ignore the State
  9. Rothbard, Murray (10 November 1980), Konkin on Libertarian Strategy
  10. Samuel Edward Konkin III, Reply to Rothbard