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Votes that Matter: A Deep Dive into the Impact of Voter Turnout and NOTA in past Chhattisgarh Assembly Elections


Two critical and often overlooked factors that significantly influence the outcome of elections are voter turnout and the presence of the "None of the Above" (NOTA) option on the ballot. This article aims to decode democracy by examining the interplay of Voter Turnout and NOTA, both silent forces that can shape the election results.

Impact of Voter Turnout and NOTA

Voter turnout is a key determinant of the legitimacy of an election. A high turnout suggests widespread civic participation and a more representative reflection of the public's will. Conversely, a low voter turnout may indicate voter apathy, disenchantment, or obstacles that hinder people from exercising their right to vote. The impact of voter turnout extends beyond the simple numerical count; it affects the democratic process, the representation of diverse voices, and the overall health of a nation's political system.

The inclusion of the NOTA option on the ballot provides voters with a unique way to express dissatisfaction with the available choices. When a voter selects NOTA, it essentially signals a rejection of all candidates, conveying the voter's belief that none of the contenders are deserving of their support. While NOTA does not directly impact the election outcome by leading to a re-run or causing a rejection of candidates, it does serve as a powerful tool for citizens to voice their discontent and dissatisfaction with the political options presented to them. We take a look at Chattisgarh elections as a case study to determine whether voter turnout or existence of nota factor could have had an impact in the election outcome

Voter turnout

Chhattisgarh witnessed a relatively high turnout in assembly elections in 2013, marked by a voter turnout of approximately 77.1%. Fast forward to the 2018 Chhattisgarh Assembly elections, the voter turnout decreased marginally to around 76.5%.

Chhattisgarh Assembly Elections Overall Voter turnout
Voter Turnout 2013 Voter Turnout 2018
77.1% 76.5%

Source : ECI

In the 2018 elections, Surguja, a Scheduled Tribe (ST) dominated zone, recorded the highest voter turnout, with Durg following closely. Notably, Bastar, another ST dominated zone, lagged behind Surguja by almost 7 percentage points in voter participation.

Zone wise Average voter turnout
Zone Voter Turnout 2018
Bastar 73.5%
Bilaspur 75.6%
Durg 78.7%
Raipur 76.9%
Surguja 80.7%

Source: ECI, Note: The number of seats may differ zone wise

Bastar and Surguja stand out with higher percentages in the 70%-80% and 80%-90% turnout ranges with Surguja taking the lead. In contrast, some regions in Bastar had a turnout lower than 60%.

Zone wise Voter Turnout Range 2018
Zone <50% 50%-60% 60%-70% 70%-80% 80%-90%
Bastar 1 1 1 5 4
Bilaspur 5 13 6
Durg 3 6 11
Raipur 4 6 10
Surguja 5 9

Source: ECI. Note: Number of ACs zone wise are depicted in the table

Bastar and Surguja both had a higher male voter turnout compared to female voter turnout. In contrast, the remaining zones displayed a comparatively lower difference in voter turnout between males and females.

Zone wise number of seats based on gender wise voter turnout in 2018
Zone Male Vote turnout > Female Voter turnout Female Voter turnout > Male Voter turnout
Bastar 10 2
Bilaspur 13 11
Durg 13 7
Raipur 15 5
Surguja 11 3

Source: ECI

Chhattisgarh registered Low Female Voter Turnout in ST reserved seats.

Gender wise voter turnout in SC and ST reserved seats in 2018
Seat Type Male Vote turnout > Female Voter turnout Female Voter turnout > Male Voter turnout
GEN 35 16
ST 21 8
SC 6 4

Source: ECI

As per the 2018 Assembly Elections the disparity in voter turnout between males and females did not significantly influence the outcome. Regardless of whether male voter turnout was high or female voter turnout surpassed male turnout, the Indian National Congress (INC) emerged as the victor in both scenarios.

Voting Patterns Based on Gender wise Voter Turnout in 2018
Voter Turnout BJP INC
Female Voter Turnout > Male Voter Turnout 1 24
Male Vote turnout > Female Voter turnout 14 44

Source: ECI

The impact of voter turnout for parties appears negligible in both low and high-turnout scenarios, with similar outcomes for the Indian National Congress (INC) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). However, in medium-turnout ranges, the two parties secured an equal number of seats.

Seats won by BJP and INC by Voter Turnout in 2018
Turnout Range BJP INC
<50% 1
50%-60% 1
60%-70% 6 6
70%-80% 5 26
80%-90% 4 34

Source: ECI

NOTA Effect

In 2013, the NOTA option accounted for 3.1% of the votes, ranking as the fourth-highest, trailing behind the BJP, INC, and BSP. By 2018, the NOTA percentage decreased to 2.0%, placing it as the fifth-highest, following INC, BJP, JCC, and BSP. Chhattisgarh stood out with the highest percentage of voters choosing the "None of the Above" (NOTA) option at 2%, compared to the 1.4% recorded in the Madhya Pradesh assembly elections in 2018. However, it's crucial to note that the NOTA option was introduced in India only in 2013, and its impact in the first year can not be fully understood.

An interesting observation emerges when examining the voting behaviour in Scheduled Tribe (ST) dominated zones, particularly in Bastar and Surguja. In both 2013 and 2018, these areas recorded the highest percentage of voters casting the "None of the Above" (NOTA) option. However, the percentage of NOTA votes decreased in the subsequent 2018 elections in both the zones.

Zone 2013 2018
TOTAL 3.07% 1.98%
Surguja 3.25% 2.26%
Bilaspur 2.37% 1.55%
Raipur 2.88% 1.33%
Durg 2.77% 1.89%
Bastar 5.67% 4.32%

Source: ECI

Another interesting observation was that the top 14 seats with the highest percentage of NOTA votes casted were exclusively from ST. This trend showcases a distinct pattern within ST-dominated areas, suggesting a prevailing dissatisfaction among STs with the choices presented by contesting parties. An additional factor contributing to the observed patterns could be the limited awareness among tribals regarding the choices presented, possibly due to inadequate educational opportunities. Certain studies suggest that the elevated incidence of "None of the Above" (NOTA) votes in Scheduled Tribe (ST) dominated regions may be attributed to individuals from the General or Other Backward Classes (OBC) rejecting ST candidates, advocating for improved representation from their own community.

Top 14 seats with the highest NOTA vote percentage
Zone Mapping AC Name Seat Category Nota votes%
Bastar Bijapur ST 10.15%
Bastar Chitrakot ST 9.09%
Bastar Dantewara ST 8.93%
Bastar Narainpur ST 5.98%
Bastar Keshkal ST 5.91%
Bastar Kondagaon ST 5.39%
Bastar Konta ST 5.28%
Bilaspur Marwahi ST 5.05%
Durg Mohala-Manpur ST 4.95%
Bastar Bastar ST 4.83%
Bilaspur Pali-Tanakhar ST 4.43%
Raipur Bindranawagarh ST 4.41%
Raipur Sihawa ST 4.28%
Bilaspur Dharamjaigarh ST 4.25%
Zone Mapping AC NAME Seat Category NOTA votes%
Surguja Dantewara ST 8.74%
Surguja Chitrakot ST 7.36%
Surguja Bijapur ST 5.98%
Bilaspur Narainpur ST 5.18%
Durg Konta ST 4.90%
Durg Antagarh ST 4.02%
Bastar Keshkal ST 4.02%
Bastar Bastar ST 3.96%
Bastar Samri ST 3.84%
Bastar Kondagaon ST 3.73%
Bastar Dharamjaigarh ST 3.50%
Bastar Sitapur ST 3.39%
Bastar Mohala-Manpur ST 3.38%
Bastar Pratappur ST 3.29%

Source: ECI

In the 2013 election, 15 seats, and in the 2018 election, 8 seats would have flipped if the votes cast for "None of the Above" (NOTA) had been redirected to the runner-up candidates instead. Despite these potential shifts, the Indian National Congress (INC), which secured a total of 68 seats in the 90-member constituent assembly, would still have retained a majority. While the NOTA factor could have influenced specific seats, it would not have been substantial enough to completely alter the overall election results

8 seats where votes would have flipped if NOTA votes would have gone to runner-up
AC Name NOTA Votes% Zone Mapping Winner Seat Category
Kota 2.65% Bilaspur JCC(J) GEN
Akaltara 1.44% Bilaspur BJP GEN
Baloda Bazar 1.62% Raipur JCC(J) GEN
Dhamtari 0.32% Raipur BJP GEN
Khairagarh 1.80% Durg JCC(J) GEN
Kondagaon 3.73% Bastar INC ST
Narainpur 5.18% Bastar INC ST
Dantewara 8.74% Bastar BJP ST

Source: ECI

The impact of voter turnout and the introduction of the NOTA option on elections is a multifaceted phenomenon. While a high voter turnout is indicative of a robust democratic process, the rising popularity of NOTA reflects a growing demand for better political alternatives. Both factors contribute to shaping the democratic fabric of a nation, providing insights into the level of civic engagement and the need for improvement in the political representation of the people. In the case of Chhattisgarh, the evolution of voter behaviour, as reflected in the increased use of NOTA is an expression of the continual quest for better governance. Watch out this space for more such insights in the upcoming 2023 Chattisgarh Assembly Elections.

CEO Chhattisgarh
Who votes ‘None of the Above’ in India | Mint

Sara Nasreen

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