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Spoiling your ballot paper - can anyone confirm this?

(92 Posts)
TheListingAttic Fri 13-Feb-15 11:13:10

To keep this in the 'spirit' of AIBU: I've always been unashamedly judgmental about people who don't vote. If you can't be arsed to go tick a box (especially as a women, when it's only relatively recently that the men deigned to allow you to do it) then you can't complain about pretty much anything about the society you live in. I fully understand people's disillusionment with the political system in general, and the whole shower of politicians in specific. So like a lot of people, I was of the opinion that if you can't bring yourself to tick a box endorsing any one of them (even as the least worst option) then you should at least go to the bother of spoiling of your ballot paper, to register your engagement with the process but protest against the actual choices it offers you. That's my two cents.

Talking to a friend of mine the other day, who used to do some sort of admin work within the electoral process, and she expressed absolute rage and frustration at people who spoil their ballots. Her point was that these papers don't register with anybody. They're never counted. She implied most papers are counted by machine, and anything that's not readable as a clear vote for a particular party just gets swept into a rubbish pile, and no one actually counts the discrepancy between numbers turning up at the polling station and numbers of valid votes. Your protest doesn't register with anyone at all.

So is it worth it? Is there any point in doing this, if no one actually notices? It seems a bit like holding a protest rally inside a sound-proofed disused warehouse. Is it even correct? Is there really genuinely no record or acknowledgement of the numbers of people turning up to vote but effectively not casting their vote? I probably wasn't going to spoil my ballot paper, but I always thought this was a worthwhile action. Now it seems like it's not recognised as any different to simply not turning up! Am I wrong?

NotSayingImBatman Fri 13-Feb-15 11:15:26

I believe your friend is right and this is why we need a None Of The Above option.

MyVisionsComeFromSoup Fri 13-Feb-15 11:17:17

I do vote counting at elections, and our system (all hand counted) is that spoiled papers are collected into a separate basket and totalled -and read if they're ranty or funny. The results are always recorded as A Smith 987 votes; B Jones 654 votes; Random Bloke with Beard 321 votes; spoiled papers 23.

DandyHighwayman Fri 13-Feb-15 11:17:17

spoilt papers are counted

MyVisionsComeFromSoup Fri 13-Feb-15 11:18:21

oh, and we certainly match up numbers at polling stations to numbers of papers counted - have had to do several recounts as the totals didn't match.

PausingFlatly Fri 13-Feb-15 11:18:21

Interested to hear the answer to this.

A friend who has hand-counted many a ballot, national and local, told me spoiled papers are piled in the middle, and then only examined further for "indications of how person meant to vote" if it looks like the spoiled papers might be the decider.

But that might be out of date, and I'd like to know how things work now.

RainbowFlutterby Fri 13-Feb-15 11:18:54

And what if "none of the above" wins?

PausingFlatly Fri 13-Feb-15 11:20:27

X-post with People Who Know!

tiggytape Fri 13-Feb-15 11:21:07

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

FannyFifer Fri 13-Feb-15 11:22:15

Even if "none of the above" was written on the majority of ballot papers, it means nothing, they just go into a spoiled papers pile.

funnyossity Fri 13-Feb-15 11:22:30

Listen out to the returning officers on election night and you will hear the number of spoiled ballots announced. (Except where the TV cuts away of course!)

NotSayingImBatman Fri 13-Feb-15 11:22:53

Rainbow then parties will have to change their policies and try again.

funnyossity Fri 13-Feb-15 11:23:35

I do listen out fro the numbers of spoiled ballots in interesting seats but I'm an election geek.

OOAOML Fri 13-Feb-15 11:27:45

papers that cannot immediately be counted as a vote for a particular candidate go into the doubtful pile and then are reviewed - some are obvious protests, some are clearly an attempt to vote for a particular candidate in a non-standard way (for example, I've counted at elections where someone had drawn a smiley face next to a candidate, and that one had to go in the doubtful pile because it wasn't 'standard' but was judged to be a vote for the candidate).

There will also be figures released on turnout, and the breakdown for the results will tell people how many spoiled/rejected papers there were.

Looking at responses, I wonder if different counting officers organise it differently, or maybe it depends on whether it is a national or council election?

If we had a 'none of the above' option (which I think we should) then hopefully there would be legislation requiring another election.

There was a dismal Edinburgh count years ago where the counting machines were a failure, with lots of ballots being rejected (I think that was the one where we voted for Holyrood and Councils on the same day, with two different voting systems, and a complete mish mash of advice being given to people on how to vote) and I'm not sure all the doubtful ones did get counted at that one, but every manual count I've been at (don't do it now but did for years) spoiled papers have been reviewed.

tiggytape Fri 13-Feb-15 11:27:59

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

TheListingAttic Fri 13-Feb-15 11:28:10

So it sounds like she's either wrong or at the very least out of date. That's kind of a relief!

I feel as if it would be a kind of triumph of democracy if we had an official 'None of the Above' option and it scored the majority! I also suspect that that wouldn't be terribly unlikely to happen, and for that reason we probably won't be given that as a means of registering our discontent!

SorchaN Fri 13-Feb-15 11:29:03

It's a while since I was last at an election count, but spoiled ballot papers were definitely counted and included in the results - the total number of votes cast includes the spoiled papers. The candidates look at them to agree that they really are spoiled (and aren't legitimate attempts to indicate a vote for a particular candidate). They also have to be kept in case of an appeal. I don't know what happened at the count your friend was at, but it sounds to me like she misunderstood the process.

OOAOML Fri 13-Feb-15 11:31:49

I would like to see the introduction of 'none of the above' as an official entry on the ballot paper Fanny - presumably those who go for a much more robust/colourful expression on their paper could continue to do so but it would also give a clear indication of how many people have no faith in any candidate. In our council elections low turnout is generally interpreted (by the council) as 'well everyone must be happy' - if there is an official measure of people who aren't then they can't claim that. And if 'none of the above' won then there could be legislation to force another election (although something would have to be done about representation while that was arranged).

kitchentableagain Fri 13-Feb-15 11:34:54

Does ticking the box not spoil the ballot? Don't you have to mark an X?

At the ref count the spoiled were certainly reviewed, people who were unable to manage to "put a cross in ONE box" were congratulated on the televised coverage.

ThursdayLast Fri 13-Feb-15 11:36:51

Sorry I haven't rtwt. I expect I'm repeating.

Even if you spoil your ballot, your name will have been crossed off the electoral roll before you enter the booth.
So the powers that be know that someone in your demographic in your area has engaged in the process. That makes thinking up policies meaningful to you and your demographic/geographical area a worthwhile thing for them to do next election.

BitOutOfPractice Fri 13-Feb-15 11:41:20

I have spoiled my paper several times by writing "none of the above" across it

This has been when I there has not been a candidate standing from the party I belong to and want to vote for. The idea of not voting horrifies me so what else should I do?

But rest assured spoiled papers are counted

TiredButFine Fri 13-Feb-15 11:50:08

They have to be counted to check against the voter- all registered voters are listed, all ballot papers given or posted out have to be checked against the ones received. I had a fun election a few years ago where there was a problem with possible fraud at two addressess, I had to find the coded ballot papers out of all the postal ballots.
A ballot paper is like a raffle ticket in a way- they all have a matching source linked to the buyer and have to be tallied up

OOAOML Fri 13-Feb-15 11:51:41

When I counted ticking wasn't counted as spoiling, unless there were other marks.

I know someone who deliberately marked both boxes in the referendum kitchen as they wanted their turnout recorded but had issues with both options.

I counted the 1997 referendum and there was a bit of an issue around how people had responded to the boxes 'I agree' and 'I do not agree' - a lot of people had put a mark, but some had written 'yes' or 'no', which led to some interesting conjecture around double negatives. And verifying the number of votes took a while as not everyone had voted on the tax varying question so the numbers didn't match the turnout on those ones.

Thursday if large numbers of people spoiled their papers, that might work. In our last council election we had a fairly low turnout and quite a lot of spoiled papers (which did make the news coverage) and various politicians made comments about needing to learn lessons from it, but I don't think much has changed. And they also made various points about maybe we should have weekend voting - I'm not sure that would make a lot of difference, I think if people are motivated to vote they will vote. The polls are open for 13 hours, and there are postal and proxy options.

And our council seems mainly to be run by council staff, so once they've set off on the path of badly implementing a party policy (and to be fair some of these are majorly duff), there appears to be very little councillors or the public can do. And investigations seem to end up with lots of missing information, be stopped because the person in the frame has 'resigned', and the latest insanity - a robbery at the trams investigation, with stolen laptops.

Sorry - bit of a council rant there.

Hamiltoes Fri 13-Feb-15 11:51:42

What if "none of the above" wins though? We're not just going to go without a govournment. We'd just have go for the second best option. And isn't that what we have now anyway with the FPTP system? A gov who the majority of the population haven't voted for anyway confused

Viviennemary Fri 13-Feb-15 11:52:37

I think spoiling your ballot paper is absolutely pointless. Why even bother to vote at all.

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