During the first round of last week’s presidential elections in Colombia, citizens were given the option to cast a blank ballot. According to the Colombian constitution, the blank ballot, or “voto en blanco”, is a political expression of dissent or abstention, and is considered to be a valid vote.
If more than 50 per cent of ballots cast are blank, the election must be repeated. Since voter malaise is not unique to one country alone, adopting this concept here could prove to be beneficial.
Given the general apathy toward politics which has developed in our country over the last few years, casting a blank ballot would allow for the opportunity to make one’s disillusionment known, while still exercising the democratic right to vote.
This initiative would send a clear message to politicians the electorate is frustrated with often being forced to choose between the lesser of two evils. Moreover, it could also increase voter turnout by encouraging those who have given up on our political process with a new and effective way to convey their disenchantment, thus reinvigorating public participation in constructing our nation’s democracy.
Year after year, it becomes clearer the rhetoric surrounding our political campaigns is typically based on slander and offences, with parties focusing more on exposing the other’s faults rather than suggesting any concrete reasons as to why they themselves should be elected.
Therefore, until the apparent recycling of local politicians running for office comes to an end, the alternative of being able to cast a blank vote should offer those who do not feel particularly passionate about any candidate the chance of having their voices heard regardless.
After all, elections will essentially always be a popularity contest, but perhaps if faced with the threat of defeat by a blank box instead of another candidate, politicians will finally take public opinion seriously.