Spoilt Ballots in the PCC vote

Several people have asked me about the number of spoilt ballots in the Cambridgeshire PCC election on Thursday. The numbers were announced at the same time as the results, and while there were significantly more than in most other elections, the total was still pretty small. Here is the graph:

The red bar here shows the proportion of “rejected” ballot papers in each district. There are many reasons why a ballot paper might be rejected, but it’s safe to assume that the vast majority of these were deliberately spoiled by the voter. [Update: Comments from people  who were at the election count say that there were quite a few rejected ballots that were unintentionally spoilt, though most were spoilt deliberately] The highest proportion was in Cambridge, with 4.6% of papers rejected, but this is still only one for every 22 valid votes cast. The rate across the whole county was 3.2% – about one for every 31 valid votes.

These numbers are a good deal higher than in most elections – for example, the rate in the last Cambridge local elections was 0.6% – but they are still dwarfed by the huge numbers of voters who simply stayed away from the polls:

Overall, while there were certainly more spoiled papers than usual, the story of the 2012 PCC elections was one of overwhelming voter apathy – across the county, people staying away from the polls outnumbered those spoiling their ballots by 175 to one.

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5 Responses to Spoilt Ballots in the PCC vote

  1. tutenkamu says:

    Not sure I agree Phil: there is a lot more effort involved in voting knowing your vote won’t count than simply not turning up. It’s hard to quantify though.


  2. Keith Edkins says:

    In Cambridge at least a lot were inscribed on the lines of “I disagree with the politicisation of the police”, “Waste of time & money” or “I don’t have enough information on the candidates to decide”. There were also plenty with two X’s in the first preference column, which were probably failed attempts to vote..

  3. Because it was a new voting system there were plenty of unintentionally spoilt papers. Most appear as voting more than once (902 out of 2892, 101 out of 614 in Cambridge and over half the spoilt total in Peterborough) but not all. So probably no more than two thirds were spoilt deliberately (nearer five-sixths in Cambridge). Also, look at 2011 for a higher number of spoilt papers in Cambridge, around 2% in three of the wards.

    • Tim Haire says:

      Colin is right to point out that a reasonable number of the spoilt ballots were attempts to vote.

      But there where lots of protests; including a vote for Richard Taylor, 1 for puffles, 1 for Robocop and 2 for Jim Gordon.

      • In Cambridge (but not elsewhere in the County) the protests and essays were all in the 500 papers ruled unmarked as to the first preference.

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