Abstention – Definition, what it is and concept

Table of Contents

Abstention is an action that a voter performs in an election that consists of not going to vote, that is, does not choose any of the available candidates, but neither vote null or in White.

When a voter is going to vote he has the following options: vote for available applications, vote on white or vote null. In this case, the election date is not directly attended and you don’t vote. Therefore, the election results are generated by those who have decided, one way or another, to participate.

There are countries in which the vote is mandatory and others in which it is optional. In countries that force voting participation is higher, since failing to do so they face a penalty fee. Some of the countries with mandatory voting are: Australia, Belgium, Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, etc. although in some of them it is optional for seniors and young people. A factor that can explain the scarce participation in the US (50% – 60%) is that they are not automatically included in the census when they come of age, they must do it themselves different ways.

Abstention is key in any electoral process, the good or bad calculation of it by political parties can be the difference between making a good or bad election campaign.


  • Active abstention: It is carried out as a form of protest against the democratic, electoral system or for a specific issue. These voters can also express such protest through the null or blank vote.
  • Passive abstention: The voters who practice it do so because of general disinterest in politics and in everything related to it. It is not that they are against politics, the system, or refrain from any purpose, but that they are directly disinterested in political life.

Practical explanation

We have three applications: A, B and C. Voters registered in the census, that is, those who are entitled A vote is 100. If candidate A gets 50 votes, B 30, and C 20, we will say that there has been a 100% participation, that is, there has been no abstention, everyone who could vote has voted.

We are in the same scenario, 100 people entitled to vote, but now A gets 25 votes, B 30 votes and C 20 votes. In this case, we will affirm that the abstention has been 25%, and has been decisive, since the B and C candidacies have kept their voters and 25% of the voters of A have decided to abstain, giving the victory to the candidacy B.