Sunday 8 February 2015

Sunday, February 08, 2015 Posted by Jake 7 comments Labels: , , , , , , ,
Posted by Jake on Sunday, February 08, 2015 with 7 comments | Labels: , , , , , , ,

Electoral law requires rejected ballots to be counted and reported, constituency by constituency. These spoiled ballots do not affect the final election result, and nor should they. Countries with no elected governments show the usual alternative to a well functioning democracy is brute force. 

The real problem is not that you can't vote for 'nobody', because you can. The problem is news organisations rarely report the 'vote for nobody', thereby failing to expose how much of a mandate the winning party actually has. 

Those who campaign for "None Of The Above" should direct their hashtags at news outlets, not at politicians:
a) You don't need to convince politicians: "None Of The Above" is already effectively being counted.
b) You have a much better chance of success: most politicians aren't in the business of exposing when politics gets foolish, while plenty of journalists are.

The most commonly given reason for low voter turnouts, "Voter Apathy", is a myth. A report done for the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust (JRRT) in 2006 dismisses being 'apathetic’, ‘too busy’ and ‘just happy to leave things as they are’ as red-herring explanations for low voter turnouts in UK elections. [Thanks to Mark A.Oxley for sending us this report].

The reason for not voting, says the report, isn't even that citizens hold politicians in contempt. An IPSOS-Mori poll done just before Christmas 2014, when we were all feeling most positive about our fellow humans, found only 16% of us trust politicians to tell the truth. So it's not that Britons don't hold politicians in contempt, but that's not the reason they don't vote. 

According to the JRRT report the core reason for low voter turnouts is:
"the very widespread sense that citizens feel their views and interests are not taken sufficiently into account by the processes of political decision-making" 

The citizens feel that power is passed, like a game of pass-the-parcel, between Tory and Labour politicians who simply wait their turn and follow their own agenda.

People not voting suits politicians very well. If their party gets more votes than any other party they can claim a 'popular mandate' to do whatever they want. Even though in the 2010 General Election twice as many people didn't vote for anyone (mainly by not voting at all: 300,000 spoiled their ballots; 22 million did not vote at all) as voted for the "winning" Conservative Party, the Tories have used their 'popular mandate' to cut public services with enormous reckless relish.

Unfortunately, many people believe there is no way to turn up and vote for nobody. They think that spoiling their ballot paper is just an empty ignored piece of petulance. 

In fact they are wrong. The Electoral Commission's rules on "dealing with doubtful ballot papers" state spoiled ballots must be counted and reported:
"The returning officer shall draw up a statement showing the number of ballot papers rejected". 

Thus there are two ways to vote for nobody: the right way, and the wrong way.
1)      The Wrong Way: Don’t turn up, don’t vote. Result: you are not counted, you don’t count, you are ignored. Politicians can claim your passive approval for whatever they do.
2)      The Right Way: Turn up, invalidate your ballot paper. Result: you are counted, you do count, you aren’t ignored. Politicians need to explain why you crossed them out as they claim a popular mandate for closing your hospitals or raising your taxes.

Though ‘invalid ballots’ are not reported in the usual official results you see on TV, the internet, and newspapers, they are nonetheless counted and published by the Electoral Commission in a less known but publicly available spreadsheet. 

The same Electoral Commission helpfully provides examples of how to invalidate a ballot paper such that it will be counted as 'rejected'. We provide two:
a) Put a cross through the whole ballot paper

b) Write in "None of the above"

The Electoral Commission data shows the number of spoiled ballots rose from 187,322 in 2005 to 303,867 in 2010. 303,867 is still a drop in the ocean of 22 million eligible voters who didn't vote

If you don't want to vote for anybody, but you want to be counted then you need to vote by putting a cross through your ballot.

There are many ways to vote, including:
1) Vote for the candidate you support
2) Vote against the candidate you don't want
3) Put a cross through your ballot paper, and be counted as "None of the above".

Whatever you do: Vote!
(First, make sure you are registered to vote:

So, tell your friends, family, and other people you have met: don't waste your vote! 
If nobody is worth voting for, then go to the polling station and vote for nobody!


  1. Grate piece with a few new bits to me too. And if you think this is a negative act, listen to the following, who would have thought ice hockey and voting would have such useful parallels

  2. I asked Richard Benyon MP to press for an ABSTENTION box. His reply (spoil your paper) showed he could not understand the concept. WESTMINSTER THE ENEMY

  3. The methods described above would work, and leaving it blank would get the ballot counted too.

    See Rule 47(4), Schedule 1, Representation of the People Act 1983.

    "(4)The returning officer shall draw up a statement showing the number of ballot papers rejected under the several heads of—

    (a)want of official mark;
    (b)voting for more than one candidate;
    (c)writing or mark by which voter could be identified;
    (d)unmarked or void for uncertainty." << "unmarked" = leaving it blank

  4. I have never heard of "take your ballot paper home instead of voting, declaring your intentions as you leave." as a way of being counted. Please point me in the direction of the rules stating this is the case.

  5. Don't do that. It's stupid. It will not be counted, and will just cause hell for the poor clerk who has to account for all the ballot papers.

    16 million people didn't vote last time. In 2005 it was almost as many as voted Labour and Conservative combined. Whatever they do - other than being silent - is newsworthy. If you want the right to vote None, then show it by voting None. It will be counted as a spoilt ballot for now, but if the numbers multiply it will be newsworthy and show the demand for better politics in the UK and the low support for those elected. If people vote None clearly, as we suggest at then it will become indefensible to classify them simply as 'voter intention uncertain' or 'spoilt ballots'. It's a direct action route to change. Women didn't get the vote, and people didn't get rid of the Berlin wall, by waiting for some individual to get permission first. You have the vote, so use it.

  6. Jake - Great post. Well researched, and good call on people to do something in this election! We've made a similarly positive argument at and @VoteOrVoteNone.

    1. Thanks. Excellent Leonardo da Vinci quote on your site:
      'Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence.'


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