Skip to main content

PCC elections: stats reveal ballot spoiling could be highest ever in UK election – University of Reading

Show access keys

PCC elections: stats reveal ballot spoiling could be highest ever in UK election

Release Date 16 November 2012

Dr Alan Rewick

Dr Alan Renwick is an election expert from the University of Reading's School of Politics and International Relations and is a published author on the subject of electoral reform.

Dr Renwick said:

"We will need more results across the country to draw a firm conclusion, but it appears likely that deliberate spoiling of ballots has taken place in this election to a greater degree than has ever occurred in a national election in the UK before.

As the votes for Police and Crime Commissioners are being added up, many count observers are noticing that some voters have chosen deliberately to spoil their ballot papers.  Some commentators are suggesting this reflects rejection of the principle of introducing elections to the world of policing.

But a few voters always deliberately spoil their ballots.  We need to ask whether the numbers doing so at this election are unusually high.  So far we have full official results in two areas: in Wiltshire, 3.3 per cent of those who voted spoilt their ballots.  In Dwfed-Powys, 4.3 per cent did so.  These numbers are well above the figures for general elections, where only around 0.3 per cent of voters cast an invalid vote.

The best comparison, however, is not with general elections, but with London mayoral elections.  These are the only other large-scale elections that use the supplementary vote system of elections.  The proportion of spoilt ballots in the first London mayoral elections in 2000 was 2.2 per cent, rising to 3.0 per cent in 2004 and then falling to 1.7 per cent in 2008 and 1.8 per cent in 2012. 

That suggests that the high level of spoiling can't be explained just by confusion over the voting system.  (In fact, in Dyfed-Powys, there were only two candidates, so the first past the post voting system was used there.)"


For all media enquiries please contact Donna Sibley, University of Reading Press Officer on 0118 378 7388 or by email on

Follow us on Twitter Like us on Facebook  Read our research blog 'The Forum'

Notes to editors

Dr Renwick's book on electoral reform in established democracies, The Politics of Electoral Reform: Changing the Rules of Democracy, was published by Cambridge University Press in early 2010. His recent book, A Citizen's Guide to Electoral Reform, explains the reform ideas currently on the agenda in the UK and analyses the arguments for and against them.

We use Javascript to improve your experience on, but it looks like yours is turned off. Everything will still work, but it is even more beautiful with Javascript in action. Find out more about why and how to turn it back on here.
We also use cookies to improve your time on the site, for more information please see our cookie policy.