Anger not Apathy: Why spoiling your Police Commissioner ballot paper is more important than not voting

If you are looking for the number of people who spoiled ballot papers, I am putting them together in a separate blog here.

Several people in my timeline have shown concern about the upcoming Police Commissioner elections on November 15th. There is a general feeling that party politics is an unwelcome intrusion into a service working perfectly well and which, when it needs political interference, already gets it in a multitude of ways. Tweeters are concerned that adding another mouthpiece with their own axe to grind and a need to be ‘seen’ in the newspapers won’t help anyone do anything more effectively.

For this reason many people are thinking they won’t turn out to vote. Please, please, I beg of you do not let your anger be taken for apathy – go and spoil your ballot paper instead.

Why should you bother? Firstly – from my experience in local elections – candidates, or at the very least their agents – eyeball all spoiled ballot papers. The main reason is because some are ‘marginal’ cases (i.e. the person has ticked two boxes, or ticked next to a box) and there needs to be agreement on who it counts for. I have, however, seen several papers with much more on them – “You’re all as bad as one another” is common, as are expletives. But – very occasionally – I’ve seen a lengthier response. One year I remember a woman writing a story about how she felt let down by her local candidate and couldn’t vote for them.  The counters saw it, the scrutineers saw it, the returning officer, the candidates. It’s stayed with me and I bet it has with them too.

Secondly, spoiled ballots are counted and their numbers are published in the UK. In future, being able to point to the number of spoiled ballots is a clear way of showing that there is anger – whereas when people don’t vote this is labelled as apathy (i.e., they didn’t care either way). If you really care about this issue I strongly encourage you to write to your MP and to other lobbying groups in the future highlighting the number of spoiled papers as an issue.  If you really don’t care, stay home. If you do, either vote or spoil.

Thirdly, why not come up with an interesting spoil and make it viral? Think of the many protest placards that now gain attention on Twitter and Facebook. Spoiled papers shared online could be one of the easiest ways to widely demonstrate your anger at this change.  In the US Presidential Election I know that in many states taking a photo of your ballot paper is illegal. I’m not sure what the situation is in the UK (anyone know?) but people in the US are doing it anyway and if things are really so bad I am sure someone can start an anonymous Tumblr or something from which to collate the information.

Finally, it’s a cliche, but for so many years people fought hard to get the vote. I really do think it is incumbent on everyone of us to use the few opportunities we have for political clout and we should say something. If what you want to say is “I don’t care who wins” then fine, stay at home. If you agree with commissioners or you really would rather a certain party won, then please use your ‘x’. But if you want to say more – if you want to suggest concern, or anger, or dismay, or anything other than a cross in the box, then please: write your message on the paper and let the people in power know EXACTLY what you think.

[In the interest of fair debate on this matter, this blog is about why spoiling ballot papers is useless. It’s worth pondering both sides before making your decision, though the blog above shows which side of the debate I am on]

3 thoughts on “Anger not Apathy: Why spoiling your Police Commissioner ballot paper is more important than not voting

  1. I understand your stance but, to me, voting is sacrosanct. “Not caring” whom your P&CC is is just sheer irresponsibility. Those who shelter behind the shield of democracy can afford to be blase about the democratic process. I almost thought of buying you a (one-way) ticket to North Korea but I thought the irony would be lost on you. Respect your views but you have patently not put your life on the line for democracy.

    1. You are correct, I haven’t put my life on the line for democracy however my understanding was that the people who have risked (and lost) their lives for democracy generally did so to secure the ‘right’ to vote, not the compulsion. I’d also point out that this blog says *if* you are not going to vote then *consider*spoiling. I’ve always maintained that people should make an informed decision and avoid simply ‘not caring’ however I do think that there are many ways to be political and I believe that if you wish to abstain then that action is as ‘political’ and is as much a choice you have the right to exercise as is either voting or spoiling your ballot paper.

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