Daily Archives: 4 May 2008

Just how many spoilt ballot papers were there?

I’ve been looking at the final results of the London elections on the London Elects website and I’m confused. Under Turnout and Technical Information, it state the following:

Electorate: 5,419,913
Papers counted / turnout: 2,456,990
Turnout: 45.33%

Good votes
1st choice: 2,415,958
2nd choice: 2,004,078

Rejected votes *
1st choice: 41,032
2nd choice: 412,054

Blank **(no votes cast): 13,034
No 2nd preference ***: 407,840

* “Rejected votes” refers to ballot papers where the vote has not been counted because the ballot paper has not been filled out correctly. This may be because the voter has marked more than one preference in one column, because the voter identified themselves on the ballot paper, if the voter’s intention is unclear or if the voter has spoiled his or her paper in any way.
** “Blank votes” refers to ballot papers where no 1st choice and no 2nd choice have been marked, and no vote has been counted. (This data is only available for 2008.)
*** “No 2nd preference” refers to ballot papers where voters have only made 1st choice vote and no 2nd choice vote. The first choice vote has been counted. (This data is only available for 2008.)

If 412,000 second preference votes were rejected in addition to 407,000 in which individuals didn’t express a second preference, this is a pretty sorry indictment of the electoral system and given the closeness of the final result is a very serious matter indeed. But none of these numbers add up. If there were 2,456,990 votes cast in total, of which 2,004,078 had “good” second preference votes, then there is a difference of 452,912 “bad” second preferences to account for. The rejected votes, blank ballot papers, and no second preference categories are defined as sui generis from one another. Add them all up and you have 380,016 too many votes. Add any two of those three categories together (i.e. assume that the no second preference category is a subset of the rejected votes category) and it still doesn’t add up.

Either I’m missing something pretty fundamental here, or something is seriously awry. Any ideas?

Regarding the Assembly results, much better news all round. The numbers do add up (assuming the blank ballot papers are not included under total votes cast) and there are significantly fewer of them than there were in 2004.