What is spoiling your ballot, and how do you do it?
Voting is an important part of the political process, it’s your chance to have your say about the future of your community or the country. However what happens if you don’t agree with any of the candidates available to you? Spoiling your ballot is one way to show your dissatisfaction.
Staying at home just makes you another statistic, it is presumed you are just uninterested, by actively going to the polling station and not selecting any candidate before submitting to the ballot box, you become a voice for the disengaged.
Blank Votes and Spoiled Ballots are read out at the count, along with the results and are also included in subsequent reports. Your apathy towards the political parties will be heard not just forgotten.
If suddenly there are huge numbers of blank/spoiled ballots at election time, the major political parties will start to think more about what they need to do to reconnect with these voters.
Coming up to an election, when my family and friends tell me they’re not going to bother to vote this time, I always say the same thing: go, get your ballot paper and if you have to spoil it. This is for a simple reason, if there are no candidates that you want to vote for, show them that. Show that you were disillusioned with them. At least spoiling your ballot shows that you turned out to vote and registered your opinion.
I previously took my own advice, spoiling my ballot at the Police and Crime Commissioner Election in 2016.
How do you spoil your ballot?
Spoiling your ballot can be done in a multitude of different ways. It could involve not voting for any candidate, by writing a message on the ballot paper, or voting for all of the candidates. Your ballot paper will also be rejected if you include any of your personal details.
Below, are some examples of rejected ballots from the Electoral Commission:
How many people actually spoil their ballot?
The House of Commons Library have shared the following information showing how many people have spoilt their ballots in each General Election.
Underneath the declaration of results from each constituency there are a number of boxes telling you the reasons why the ballot papers for the election were rejected, they include: want of an official mark, voting for more candidates than the voter was entitled to, writing or mark by which voter could be identified, being unmarked or wholly void for uncertainty or rejected in part. The vast majority of spoilt papers end up in the second and fourth boxes.
Sometimes voters may accidentally spoil their ballots (e.g. thinking they can vote for more than one candidate). When counting papers like this, it can be difficult to distinguish between not reading the instructions or intentionally spoiling the paper.
Could my spoilt ballot be counted as a vote?
The Electoral Commission have released guidance on dealing with doubtful papers on a range of different elections and types of election on their website. What is interesting to see is that any mark that is seen to support a candidate is counted as a vote, and this could be anything from a smiley face to messages to drawings.
Spoilt papers are put separately to the rest of the ballot papers and are counted separately to fill in the bottom part of the declaration. At this point candidates and their agents can request for some to be counted as valid votes, but it is the Returning Officer’s decision on whether or not they count.
It’s important to show candidates rejected ballot papers throughout and not at the end. This is so you aren’t left with a close result of 1 or 2 votes in it with a couple of spoilt papers that the candidates will try and argue for. If the spoilt papers have already been decided and accepted as spoilt, then it makes the process easier and the result is accepted by all.
Like the rest of the country, an increase of spoilt ballot papers were prevalent in the recent local elections. Whilst counting the ballot papers on 3rd May, I noticed many were spoilt or contained messages written on them relating to Brexit, we also had drawings of Mickey Mouse as well as crude drawings. Postal voters are normally the most creative with their spoilt papers as they’ve had the most time to come up with something creative.