Total Percentage of Spoiled Ballot Papers in Police Commissioner Elections

** Update 20/11/12: People have been very kind in sending through any new information which I am putting into the figures below as we can find it. That this has been such a ridiculously complex task is making me believe that future elections really should have one central website at which the Results Certificates are uploaded as soon as announced. That would provide far better information for the public, researchers and journalists than crazily crawling through websites.

Some results are still differing from other figures. As noted, I initially used the Guardian dataset but that looks to have been a little off (I think because spoils were taken out) so some of the percentages are slightly out.  However, an excellent post by Alan Renwick at the University of Reading has all data here and gives an analysis of what the results meant. He concludes that the spoils were not dramatically high. It’s an interesting piece and I highly recommend it even if you disagree with the conclusion.

Original Post from Day of the PCC Election Count

Can’t find a single major media outlet with the figure of rejected ballot papers (admittedly that includes ‘incorrect’ votes as well as protests) so, along with @michaelt1979, we crawled local area websites where results are required to be published as soon as possible after the election has finished (according to rules of the game by the Electoral Commission).  Many councils do a great job of putting it somewhere accessible and provide lots of details; sadly, it’s amazing how many of them really don’t.

Having looked up a number of local election results from 2008 (2010’s general elec was an unfair comparison) the average rejected paper rate is between 0.15 and 0.35% in all the areas I viewed. Almost every election below had a spoil rate ten times higher than would be normal for their area. Put that against the lowest turnout ever in an election and I really do feel the public have spoken on this one.

There are almost definitely some mistakes below – some of it is caused by discrepancies between available datasets and we don’t necessarily know which ones are correct, however where possible we have linked to our source. Please give me a shout via twitter (@miss_mcinerney) if you see something incorrect and I’ll update.

Wiltshire – 3.3%

Dorset – 2.5%

Suffolk – 3.9%

Dyfed – 4.5%

West Midlands – 3%

Hertfordshire – 3% – UPDATED: Certificates of result now online, thanks to blog reader for emailing to update me on this one.

Cleveland – UPDATED: The only figures available on the Cleveland website are for the ‘second round’ count. By this point the spoils have already been removed. So I can’t find the correct figure. *Sigh* Another Returning Officer who hasn’t read the guide book?

Greater Manchester – have published without rejections, poor form.

Merseyside – UPDATE: figure is 2% (2915) – given to me by @michaelt1979 – It’s buried in a daft part of the council website

Sussex – Clearly trying to be helpful the results page talks through how the count worked but doesn’t mention rejected papers. Another potential Election Commission rule failure. Just had this pointed out to me though suggesting a 3% figure:

Lancashire – have a fancy PCC website and say they are going to update in next few hours: keep watching >

Thames Valley – 3.4% 

Northumbria – 2.2%

Hampshire – 2.5% – 

Durham – 2.1% – First place I have seen a UKIP candidate score higher than the Conservative candidate 

South Yorkshire – 2.8%

Gloucestershire – 2.7%

Nottinghamshire – 2.2%

Cambridge – 3.3%

Kent – 1.8%

Northamptonshire – 2.9%

Norfolk – 3.3% – this might be 3%, the figure I have for total turnout is from Guardian datablog but showing up a little differently to Norfolk results. Somewhere between the two seems likely!

Staffordshire – 2.9%

Essex – 2%

Cornwall – 3.2%

 Leicestershire – 2.6%

Cheshire – 2.2%

Avon & Somerset – 3.8%

West Yorkshire – 3.7%

Humberside – 1.7%

Lincolnshire – 2.2%

North Yorkshire – 7.23% (really quite incredible!)

21 thoughts on “Total Percentage of Spoiled Ballot Papers in Police Commissioner Elections

  1. I went to vote out a ex-football mascot who’d been elected mayor but was also tald that I “had” to take a police commisioner ballot paper, so I spolit it as did my wife. I thought voting was our right to do or not to do. I didn’t want to give the PC election any creditbility.

  2. Well done and thank you for your work in bringing out this information. As you point out this sort of democracy is really NOT what those in charge want to see.

  3. Have also been trying to find this data. Something I’ve found occasionally useful is to do an internet search on “certificate of first count” alongside the region. I’ve also been adding up data from individual districts, which have made the effort to publish. My information is still a touch shaky, as I’ve been extrapolating information from partial figures, so thanks for a bit extra to go on, I’ll be following any updates.

    1. Just a quick query, can you tell me where you got that information for Cleveland? The BBC figures (without spoilt ballots) is giving turnout as 14.73%, but Redcar & Cleveland council site is giving 15.12% – although they are not giving details of this. If this latter figure includes spoilt ballots, I’d estimate that about 2.58% were spoilt, based on the BBC figures for number of votes. I could clear this up if I could find the full figures, but frustratingly, I can’t.

      1. The Cleveland note is linked to its source, although it appears that is a second ballot count. As you rightly note, it’s been nearly impossible to find reliable sources for this information!

      2. You’re right, the Cleveland information is based on the second count (as Michael points out). In all the craziness yesterday I hadn’t noticed that, but have updated now. They don’t appear to have put the figures up anywhere which (according to the Electoral Commission standards) is poor form. Your estimation is probably right – that figure would certainly reflect everything else we’ve seen.

        That spoils are TEN times their normal rate is really quite amazing. Especially when it would have been so easy for people just to stay home and not vote given that it was a dark November day. People are clearly mad about it.

    1. National I haven’t got to yet but you might do an average of the ones above? For accuracy click on the local place names and it will take you to the source. Feel free to recalculate. So far people are doing a pretty Wikipedia-esque job of keeping me on my toes where there are inaccuracies but I can’t vouch for data as being solid as my maths was very quick. The sources are pretty authoritative though.

    1. Hi Peter – no way of knowing at present. Hopefully a political scientist might be able to get info in future. Or could be worth putting an FOI in for this (via

  4. You missed North Yorkshire, with over 7% spoilt ballot papers:
    Given this was a straight two-horse race, there was no Alternative Vote – it was a simple “mark your preferred candidate with an X” election. Therefore no one can argue that voters were “confused” in North Yorks – these 6402 people knew exactly what they were doing.

    Just under 8% of those who bothered to turn out spoilt their ballot papers, while just under 8% of the electorate voted for the “winning” candidate.

  5. Just another comment about my region Devon and Cornwall (they vote for the same P&CC). We were the last region to declare a result presumably because we are a rural constituency. According to Western Morning News a total of 69,419 votes were cast and 3320 rejected as “void for uncertainty as to the first preference vote”. That makes the D&C constituents spoiling 4.8% of votes (not the figure in your first blog). Thanks again for your useful work.

    Apologies, I got the figures wrong for Devon and Cornwall. 197004 voted and 6339 votes were spoiled. Of the 6339 spoiled votes 3320 (1.7%) were spoiled as “void for uncertainty as to first pref vote”. Sorry for my earlier error.

    1. Just FYI in the Devon and Cornwall election they split the total spoiled vote (6339 votes or 3.3% into “those where first pref. couldn’t be identified” (3320 votes or 1.7%) and those others where voters voted for more than two candidates etc” (3019 votes or 1.6% )

  7. Thanks for all the comments – have really appreciated help on this, it was quite a task (and an unexpected one, had other plans that day which were completely nixed when I realised the information wasn’t available anywhere). Couldn’t have been done without lots of help on Twitter and subsequent follow-ups. Best place to get data now is Alan Renwick’s very detailed political science analysis, ( but I like that this blog is the place where the community first created the numbers!

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