What does “spoil your ballot paper” mean?

what does spoil your ballot paper mean

As the polls open in many local authorities across the UK, social media is ablaze with comments from people who don’t intend to vote. Some think it’s a “waste of time,” others don’t think the council represent voters’ views. Some have voted with optimism in previous years, then become disillusioned when their vote doesn’t seem to have made anything better.

Voting is power

For these reasons, and probably others, many people will not be voting today. In the UK, we are lucky to have a choice about whether or not we vote. (It is compulsory in some countries, but that creates a whole different set of problems.) However, voting is power, and when we don’t vote, we throw that power away.

Spoil your ballot paper – how to do it

If, for whatever reason, you choose not to vote, please remember there is a powerful alternative to the cross in the box. You can spoil your ballot paper. All you have to do is put something on your ballot paper that isn’t one cross in one box. When I’ve spoiled ballot papers, I’ve gone for a massive line through all the names. It’s worth remembering that some vote-counters are told to count everything that looks like a mark in a box, so try to show that you meant it as a protest and it wasn’t just a mistake.

A spoiled ballot paper is legal and anonymous, and should be counted along with all the other votes.

Why is spoiling your ballot paper more powerful than not voting at all?

A spoiled ballot paper counts towards the overall result. For example, after counting, the votes might look like this:


Candidate A – 100 votes

Candidate B – 90 votes

Candidate A has won because they have the largest number of votes. It’s a clear victory and Candidate B is out in the cold.

But if people turned up and spoiled their ballot papers, the results might look like this:

Candidate A – 100 votes

Candidate B – 90 votes

Spoiled ballot papers – 15

Candidate A has still won. But they only hold the largest number of votes, not the majority. 90 + 15 = 105, so more voters voted against Candidate A than voted for them.

This means that the spoiled ballot papers have weakened Candidate A’s position. And instead of just cruising along, Candidate A will now have to work hard to actually listen to people and deliver on promises, in order to try and win those fifteen over before the next election. Candidate B will have to up their game too.

Whoever you are, elections have something to do with you. If you think all the candidates are numpties, tell them: spoil your ballot paper. Staying at home says nothing at all, but spoiling your ballot paper sends a powerful message.

The choice is yours.

Image Credits:

  • elliott-stallion-1UY8UuUkids-unsplash: Photo by Elliott Stallion on Unsplash


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