A voting fallacy

As the election period draws to a close, and a new Prime Minister is set to be elected, young voters are predicted to yet again provide the lowest turnout for this general election. When discussing with my colleagues who we would cast our vote for, to my surprise, two people claimed they were spoiling their ballots, which in a room of eight people, represents 25% of the vote share. 

I’ve met lots of young people who haven’t bothered to vote, in the 2019 general election or more recently in the local elections, despite being registered. And why should I blame them, political parties are making little effort to appeal to young voters, unless one is happy to be shipped off with Rishi’s conscripted service men and women. However, we now find ourselves in a catch-22 situation, because if younger people are less likely to vote, political parties are less likely to turn their attention towards us.

The 2019 general election saw a rise in spoilt ballots, mostly due to dissatisfaction with Brexit. Spoiled ballots soared by almost a third in southwest London during the 2019 general election, with constituencies recording a 32% surge in rejected ballot papers. As the political spectrum in the UK (and Europe) has shifted further right, with the Tories unsure about their future against Reform and Labour distancing itself from the Corbyn days, one can reasonably expect another rise in spoilt ballots from disillusioned younger voters.

After all, a spoilt ballot is a protest vote and intended to say: “I cared enough to show up on election day but none of you were acceptable – if you try to figure out why you’ll win my vote next time”, but it could also just be a drawing of a phallic. So how effective is the spoilt ballot at voicing your dissatisfaction with the candidates presented to you? I will attempt to give you a pros and cons list if you were to spoil your ballot, and maybe convince you to do this instead of not voting.


  • Spoilt ballots are tallied up along with other results, which political parties will look at and are much more likely to try winning you over and much more likely to try fixing the system than if you were to not vote.
  • A spoilt ballot is as clear a message as a tactical vote for a party you don’t particularly agree with because a vote is not always a wholesale endorsement of that party.
  • Voting Counts, an organisation that aims to improve political engagement among young adults, says it is a good way for someone to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with politicians.
  • The content of your rejected ballot can often inject humour into the often very dry process of counting votes – think about those poor vote counters who might get a giggle!


  • Waiting for a political candidate or party who perfectly reflects your political views in order to vote for them is giving up any power you have to influence elections until then and allowing the rest of the country to choose for you. Why wait for a “good enough” option when you could be voting for the “least bad” option or voting tactically to prevent the “worst” option?
  • A rejected ballot can be difficult for politicians to interpret, as your message is not necessarily clear or acknowledged by the results.
  • Your vote could be awarded to a candidate unintentionally! In 2015, Glyn Davies MP was given a vote because the drawing of a phallic symbol fit within the confines of his box on the ballot paper.
  • There are other ways to protest including lawful demonstrations, publicised campaigns, writing to your elected politician or setting up your own political party.

I by no means wish to influence how you should vote, but instead hope to demonstrate the importance your vote carries, even by merely going down to your local polling station and doodling on your ballot paper. In my opinion, it is not only your right as a citizen of a democratic country, but also your duty to take a few minutes out of your day once every five years to vote. And if you are part of the 42% who will not vote in this general election because you think the state of politics in our country is a bit of a joke, then find your creative way of expressing that on your ballot paper tomorrow.

Charlie Bay, recently joined JBP as an account executive. He currently advises clients on the rollout of digital infrastructure in rural areas, the rural economy and financial services reform, by regularly engaging with parliamentarians and decision-makers across both the House of Commons and Lords. 

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