POLYAS Election Glossary

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

Spoilt Vote

A spoilt vote refers to a ballot that has been declared invalid and will not be counted in the election results. Voters can spoil their ballot in a multitude ways, and the practice may be intentional or accidental. The most common form would be to simply leave the ballot blank or to deface it.

Voters may have many different reasons for spoiling the ballot. The most common is a form of protest vote. Rather than simply not showing up to vote, voters cast a spoilt ballot to express their dissatisfaction. By actively choosing to spoil their ballot, voters send a direct message to the government and election organizers. At times messages may be written across the ballot, and lewd images are not uncommon. In Australia, where voting is compulsory, spoilt ballots represent 6% of total votes cast. 

See also: Compulsory Voting , Abstained Votes, Ballot Paper

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