We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is Abstention?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
Our promise to you
MyLawQuestions is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At MyLawQuestions, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Abstention is a word which is used in several different legal senses. This word means “to refrain,” as for example when someone might claim to be abstaining from alcohol, meaning that this person is not drinking alcohol. In a legal sense, abstention can involve withholding a vote, refraining from a particular activity, or refusing to have an opinion on a legal matter. Many governments have procedures in place to allow people to formally abstain.

In elections, people may choose to abstain from voting because they do not like the choices or they wish to challenge the validity of the election. Staying at home on election day is a form of abstention but people who would like to formally record their protest can choose to go to the polls and cast a blank ballot. Also known as a blank vote or white ballot, the ballot is considered spoiled by the elections personnel, but will be counted along with other ballots. People may refer to this type of abstention as “making a protest vote.”

In parliamentary procedure, people who are present for a vote can vote aye, nay, or abstain. People may opt for abstention if they have a conflict of interest which they believe precludes them from voting. An abstention can also be recorded as a form of protest. For example, a legislator who is opposed to a piece of legislature might abstain or vote “present,” depending on the procedures in the legislature, to mark discontent with the way in which the legislation was handled.

Courts can also engage in abstention. If a court feels that it cannot rule on a matter before it, it may abstain. This is usually done when a court wishes to refer a matter to another court. The abstaining court must usually provide a reason for the fact that it is declining to give a ruling. In cases where judges believe that there is a conflict of interest, they are obligated to recuse themselves from the bench and the court selects another judge to hear the case.

It is generally recognized that people should be allowed to choose abstention as an option, rather than being compelled to vote for or against something or to vote from a group of choices which they feel are all poor. Abstention is also an important mechanism for allowing people who have conflicts of interest or biases to excuse themselves from a vote.

MyLawQuestions is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a MyLawQuestions researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By strawCake — On Oct 04, 2011

@ceilingcat - Yeah, people who don't vote out of laziness really make me angry. Not every one gets the right to vote like we do in this country! We shouldn't take it for granted.

Anyway, I think it's a good thing that courts have to explain why they are abstaining from making a ruling. I think that for a court to just not rule, they should have a good reason!

By ceilingcat — On Oct 03, 2011

I think the only way to differentiate between people who abstain from voting out of laziness and those who do so in protest is the white ballot.

In order to cast a blank ballot you have to make the effort to actual go to the polling place and cast your vote. This definitely says that you are abstaining from voting in protest.

However, sadly, a lot of people in this country don't vote. So not every one who stays home on election day is waging some kind of political protest. Some of them are just lazy, or don't care. Of course, these non-voters are usually the ones that complain the loudest when the elected officials mess up later!

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Read more
MyLawQuestions, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

MyLawQuestions, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.