POLYAS Election Glossary

We provide explanations and background information on elections, voting rights and digital democracy

Donkey Vote

A donkey vote is a type of vote which can be cast under a preferential voting system. Under such a system, voters are either required or allowed to vote for candidates in order of preference, marking a “1” next to their first choice, a “2” next to their second and so on. A donkey vote is one in which the voter simply ranks each candidate in the order that they have appeared on the ballot paper. Ranking the candidates in reverse order from bottom to top also qualifies as donkey voting. Someone who used this technique is known as a “donkey voter”.

Donkey voting is particularly prevalent in jurisdictions where voting is compulsory, such as in Australia, where both houses of parliament are elected using preferential electoral systems. There are multiple reasons which could explain the phenomenon of donkey voting:

  • protest voting
  • political disengagement
  • apathy
  • ignorance of the voting system

In contrast to invalid votes (alternatively: spoilt ballots, informal votes), which result from ballot papers being filled out incorrectly and which don’t count towards the election result, donkey votes are still valid because the ballot paper has nevertheless been filled out correctly. Therefore, they do count towards the election result.

See also: Ballot Paper, Ballot Box Election, Compulsory Voting

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