Frequently asked questions about Negative Vote
Q: Has Negative Vote being tried anywhere in the world? Why don’t we wait until other more advanced democracies have practiced it?
A: Negative Vote is not practiced anywhere in the world except Armenia in a limited form. Armenia election code allows negative vote when there is only one candidate. Tanzania also allowed voters the option to vote NO during 1965-1990 when the country was under one party rule and had only one candidate for President. Why shouldn’t Taiwan lead the world to make a major contribution toward improvement in democracy? Must we follow others in order to have confidence it is the right thing to do?
Q: You claim Negative Vote should be a fundamental right, but it cannot be deducted from the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights.
A: The fact it does not exist in "the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights" shows the Covenant is imperfect and has room for improvement.
The right to object is a fundamental cornerstone of democracy. Suppose there is only one candidate, should I as a voter only have the option to vote YES or not vote? Should I not have the right to vote NO? If there are more than one candidate but you don’t like any, why should you not have the right to vote NO?
“Democracy is all about choice. This choice can be better expressed by giving the voters an opportunity to verbalize themselves unreservedly and by imposing least restrictions on their ability to make such a choice.” --Quotation from Indian Supreme Court. (Although the Court was ruling on a different idea, the principle expressed is just as valid here.)
Q: You claim voter participation will increase, what is the evidence?
A: We conducted three Gallup surveys in Taiwan in 2015. The data clearly showed voter participation would increase. For example, the 2nd national survey (conducted in Dec. 2015) showed voter participation would increase 5.4% which would mean an additional participation of more than 1 million voters in Taiwan. Rand Corporation’s U.S. presidential election survey conducted in August 2016 showed voter participation would increase 4.4% if this option is available.
Q: How would you avoid the scenario where the winner is someone who received very few gross positive votes?
A: There are already many thresholds in the nomination process to prevent that outcome, it is probably not necessary to create new threshold but it can be
considered. In the draft revision, we proposed 10% threshold for the election of President in Taiwan. Whether new threshold is needed or how high probably would vary by district or country. For example, Singapore and South Africa are dominated by one political party, the people there might want a relatively high threshold. Israel is more accustomed to multiple parties so a relatively low threshold (if any) might be acceptable there.
Q: What if no candidate gets net positive votes?
A: The election should be re-held and previous candidates should be barred from participation. That probability is extremely low(near negligible, probably as rare as two top candidates getting identical votes). Since each voter has only one vote, no candidate would be so stupid as to encourage loyal supporters cast negative votes. Each candidate would have passionate supporters. These would cast positive votes. Our Gallup surveys in Taiwan showed the Negative Votes would be about 1/3 of all votes cast and would be split mainly against the two major party candidates, so someone will get higher net positive votes and win. RAND survey in the U.S. showed a very high 40% of votes cast being Negative Votes, also split mainly against the two major party Presidential candidates. If you do some hypothetical allocation of positive and negative votes, you might reach the same conclusion as we have that it is extremely difficult to construct a scenario where no one gets net positive votes.
Q: Isn’t re-election costly to the society?
A: Isn’t electing the wrong person office even more costly?
Q: Wouldn’t Negative Vote cause more negative campaign?
A: Just the opposite. Negative Vote will reduce negative campaign. Under current election system, all candidates have incentive to employ negative campaign in some degree. Since no one can vote against him, he who uses negative campaign will not lose the support of his supporters and might reduce the support of the opponent. If Negative Vote is available, such a strategy would run the risk of antagonizing the middle-electorate to cast negative votes against him. With Negative Vote, it is no longer sufficient to have just the support of party diehards, a candidate must also try avoid antagonizing and win the support of the middle-electorate. Real ‘beef” therefore will need to be presented in the campaign instead of just throwing dirt on the opponent.
Q: Should not you do more research and studies and cite actual examples?
A: We are not opposed to research and studies and wish some academic institutions
would do some serious research and study on Negative Vote. Nevertheless, the 3 principle reasons to support Negative Vote are based on logic that cannot be refuted by research and studies. The right to object cannot be refuted by studies. A voluntary increase in voter participation is good for democracy cannot be refuted by studies. Reducing influence of extremist politicians will promote peace and harmony cannot be refuted by studies. The 3 Gallup surveys and 1 RAND survey we commissioned in 2015-2016 have confirmed voter participation will increase. One Gallup survey we conducted focused on Hsin-chu city where there was a close contest, the survey showed the election outcome could have been different if Negative Vote option was available. To our knowledge, these surveys were the first-of-its-kind in the world. We are confident more surveys elsewhere will continue to prove (a) voter participation will increase and (b) election result could be altered in a tight race.
Q: Will Negative Voting lead to mediocre leadership?
A: Middle-of-the-road does not mean lack of creativity or progressive thinking. Negative vote idea itself is a good example of a non-partisan, middle-of-the-road idea. It is a creative and progressive (some would say revolutionary) idea, far from mediocre.
Q: Why not adopt “None of the Above” option
A: "None of the above" or NOTA is available already in India and a few other countries such as Thailand and Brazil. After NOTA became available in 2013 in India, you can find English press comments there why it has no impact at all in India. That is not surprising to us.
A fundamental value in democracy is one person one vote and each vote carries the same weight. NOTA violates the same weight spirit. If too few people cast NOTA, it is the same as casting an invalid vote, carries no weight at all. If a lot of people cast NOTA so that it exceeds certain threshold to void the election, then it carries too much weight, again violates the equal value spirit.
The design of Negative Vote is still one person one vote, each vote carries the same weight. Because there is only one vote, the political parties will urge their supporters to cast positive votes, the probability of "no winner" outcome is extremely low. Instead of asking or studying the mathematical probabilities, etc., the more important question to ask is why a candidate will get positive or negative votes. The key contribution of Negative Vote is that it allows an option that will stimulate the middle electorate to come out to vote, and if they cast negative votes, they will cast
them against extremist candidates. NOTA will not be as effective as Negative Vote in stimulating more people to vote nor weeding out extremism. If we have Negative Vote, NOTA would be unnecessary and having that option would dilute the effectiveness of Negative Vote in weeding out extremists.
Q: Isn’t negative vote designed to benefit 3rd party candidate? It would not make any difference in a two-person race.
A: Here is an illustration by example:
Under current system
A wins and proudly proclaims majority mandate. What if the reality is that there are 10 other voters who chose not to vote because they dislike both candidates and refuse to vote for either one against their conscience? Having the Negative Vote option will bring some of them out. Suppose 5 did:
A +34 -4 (net 30)
B +33 -1 (net 32)
B wins and must admit (s)he does NOT have majority support, even though (s)he won in a two-candidate race! A humbler winner in a two-person race( or any other race) is also good for democracy. More voters participated and clearer messages are delivered. I also submit A's winning the election with fewer participation means the wrong person got elected. Similar example can be constructed for a contest with 3 or more persons.
Q: Are you advocating people should vote NO?
A: Although we advocate this as a basic right, we are NOT encouraging voters to cast Negative Votes, just the opposite. Our vision is that once voters have this option, extremists influence will be reduced, the influence of the middle electorate will be respected more, negative campaign will lessen, and candidates must bring “beef” to the table to win the FOR votes of the middle electorate instead of AGAINST. The extremist politicians are weeded out, the middle electorate will therefore cast more FOR votes instead of AGAINST votes.
Q: Don’t we need to revise the Constitution which would be an almost impossible mission?
A: No. There is nothing in the Constitution that disallows Negative Vote. We have two laws that govern all elections for political office in Taiwan. We only need to revise those laws.