None of the Above (NOTA) or against all is a ballot choice in some jurisdictions or organizations, placed so as to allow the voter to indicate his disapproval with all of the candidates in any voting system. It is based on the principle that all legitimate consent requires the ability to withhold consent, allowing voters to withhold their consent in an election to office, just as they can by voting "no" on ballot questions.
Entities that include "None of the Above" on ballots as standard procedure include the U.S. state of Nevada ("None of these candidates"), Ukraine ("Against all"), Spain (voto en blanco), France (vote blanc), Colombia (voto en blanco), the United States Libertarian Party, the Green Party, the Florida affiliate of the American Patriot Party, and the Debian Project. Russia had such an option on its ballots ("Against all") until it was abolished in 2006.
When "None of the Above" is listed on a ballot, there is the theoretical possibility of NOTA receiving a majority of the vote cast. In such a case, a variety of formal procedures may be invoked, including having the office remain vacant, having the office filled by appointment, re-opening nominations, or beginning the election process again (in a body operating under parliamentary procedure).
In Nevada, the actual candidate with the greatest number of votes assumes office regardless of how many votes "None of the Above" gets. Thus "None of the Above" acts purely as a repository for protest votes.
The Green Party of California included NOTA in its original 1991 bylaws, to offer voters a choice of rejecting all candidates presented. After one round of successful elections in which a candidate in Southern California and all gubernatorial candidates were retired after the primary by NOTA, a lawsuit promulgated by the California Secretary of State led to the disallowal of NOTA in Green Party primaries.
In 2000, Michael Moore advocated a write-in candidate Ficus (the plant) for Congress as a unified vote for none of the above in congressional seats where the incumbent was running unopposed.
In 2004, the Oklahoma Green, Libertarian and Constitution parties endorsed a "NOTA" campaign for president that was organized by Oklahomans for Ballot Access Reform. The campaign called for voters to leave the Presidential ballot line blank in protest of restrictive ballot access laws.
Ralph Nader ran as a NOTA candidate and supports the NOTA option as a method of voters to withhold consent and to initiate a new round of elections.
In elections where "None of the Above" is not an option, a ballot is usually regarded as spoilt if a voter decides to cross the entire ballot paper, or leave it blank.
Many students' unions in the United Kingdom (including the National Union of Students) use a very similar ballot option called re-open nominations (RON) in instant runoff voting (alternative vote) and single transferable vote elections. The key difference is that RON is an active vote against all candidates in FPTP (First Past The Post) and all subsequent candidates in an STV election.
There are several ways of dealing with a RON candidate. In a single member constituency or election to a single position RON is treated as a normal candidate. If re-open nominations is deemed elected to any position then at the end of the count that position is declared vacant and nominations must later be re-opened for that position.
In a multi-member constituency either when a RON candidate is elected, all other candidates below RON are declared not to be elected and the counting process stops, the election is then re-run for that and all other unfilled positions. Or in the other case, RON is elected to a position, then any surplus is transferred to another RON(2) candidate as if such an option had been presented on the ballot paper. If RON(2) is elected, then the process carries on with RON(3), RON(4) candidates and so on until all seats are filled.
Robert's Rules of Order, Newly Revised, 10th edition, p. 402, describes various forms of "illegal ballots," which are ballots which do not count for any candidate. Blanks are treated as "scrap paper" and are of no effect, but "unintelligible ballots or ballots cast for an unidentifiable candidate or a fictional character are treated as "illegal votes." "All illegal votes cast by legal voters ... are taken into account in determining the number of votes cast for purposes of computing the majority." RRONR always requires a majority for election, and so casting an illegal ballot, or one for a hopeless candidate, whether on the ballot or as a write-in, is equivalent to voting No for all other candidates. "The principle is that a choice has no mandate from the voting body unless approval is expressed by more than half of those entitled to vote and registering any evidence of having some opinion."