Much has been said about spoilt ballots in the Police and Crime Commissioner elections, but no one has thoroughly analysed the evidence. In this post, Alan Renwick, Reader in Comparative Politics at the University of Reading, goes through the data that are available. He finds that there is evidence of more deliberate spoiling of ballots than usual, but the extent of this was limited. The main story of the election is low turnout, not high spoiling.
One of the talking points surrounding the Police and Crime Commissioner elections has been the number of spoilt ballot papers. Many observers at the 41 counts around England and Wales saw ballots with mini-essays on them, rather than votes. The perception is that some voters expressed their disagreement with the idea of politicizing the police by deliberately casting an invalid vote.
But there are always a few voters who purposefully spoil their ballots and others who do so by mistake. To see whether there is anything unusual about this election, we need precise numbers. Unfortunately, these have not been easy to come by. There is no official agency that gathers information on results across the country. The closest we have to that is the BBC, but the BBC has published results that exclude rejected votes. The only way the ordinary citizen can find out about spoilt ballots is to go to the website of each of the 41 local authorities responsible for organizing the counts and check their numbers.