The Brexit Party has pulled a load of its candidates and UKIP is fielding only a few so as an avid Brexiteer I looked up the candidates in my patch. I found a Conservative, a Labour, a LibDem and a Green. I would imagine there are quite a few constituencies like mine.
I wouldn’t vote Labour in a month of Sundays, with Jeremy Corbyn refusing to say whether or not he would prefer to Leave or Remain. And with their pro-Europe polices, the LibDems and Greens are even worse. The Tory? A possibility, as long as he was an ardent Brexiteer, but I found that he had been parachuted into the constituency following the retirement of the sitting Conservative. Yes, he claimed to be a Brexiteer, promising to ‘Get Brexit done’ but that to me is just sycophantically following his blessed blond-haired leader.
Married to a member of the House of Lords, he’s a SPaD, currently a special advisor to the Prime Minister, previously a Chief of Staff to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office and a special advisor to the defence secretary – in other words a professional politician. A nice enough chap perhaps, but not one I could take to in a big way, especially as his Twitter account which, if I recall, was a little revealing, has subsequently been deleted.
So what to do about this situation. I really don’t want to vote for any of these candidates but I am not prepared to give up my right to vote, so I had a look around and found a website called Vote None. This seemed to be set up for the last election or the one before that but it contains quite a lot of information about what to do if you need to vote ‘None of the Above’.
As we all know, the option to vote for ‘None of the Above’ is not available on ballot papers here in the UK – it’s an American thing. There have been many petitions to include this during elections but we really need to tell TPTB that there is a need.
If you wanted to vote NOTA, you could always spoil your ballot paper but that would go down in the records as simply ‘spoilt’. Yes, certainly, spoilt ballots are counted and may even be reported in the press if there are enough of them. There were nearly 100,000 spoilt votes in the 2015 General Election, which would be enough to elect three or four MPs into Parliament if they were all in the same constituencies, but as they were spread thinly across the country the numbers ceased to matter.
Around a third of registered voters didn’t even bother to vote so if a few of these were prepared to go along to their polling station and vote ‘None of the Above’, that number could be significant.
And according to Vote None, there is a way. Firstly as a protest vote it should be very clear that you don’t want to vote for any of the candidates. Many spoilt votes are ‘void for uncertainty’ about who the voter wanted to vote for. Your vote, if you wish to go down this route, should not be uncertain at all. Then it can be classified as a protest vote.
According to the Electoral Commission, there are four reasons why ballot papers may be rejected:
- want of an official mark
- voting for more than one candidate
- writing or mark by which the voter could be identified
- unmarked or void for uncertainty
So, if your ballot paper hasn’t been stamped by the poll clerk with the official stamp, it will be rejected; if you vote for more than one candidate it will be rejected; if you sign or put your name on the ballot paper it will be rejected; if you leave your ballot paper blank or it is not clear who you are voting for, it will be rejected.
The commission says a statement must be prepared showing the number of ballot papers rejected under each of these four headings, which will all come under the ‘spoilt’ category.
BUT if you want your vote to be classified as a ‘protest’ vote, make sure you don’t ‘spoil’ it. Don’t put a cross or tick anywhere on the paper, don’t write your name or sign it, and make your protest quite clear – so that there is no uncertainty.
Write the word ‘NONE’ diagonally across all the names so that anyone can understand you don’t want to vote for any of the candidates. This negates the grounds that your intention is not certain. Then put a single line diagonally through all the boxes. Don’t put a cross anywhere or your vote will be deemed ‘uncertain’ and don’t write anything else at all on your ballot paper.
Don’t use the pencil they give you in the voting booth – that could be erased by an unscrupulous member of staff. Take a thick black pen into the polling booth and do it with that – remember, what you do in that booth is your own business.
The Electoral Commission’s instructions say that you should show the official mark to the polling clerk before you put your ballot into the black box but in my experience they have never asked to see the mark; I have just put it in the box.
If you are queried or challenged in any way, I would imagine you would be completely within your right to refuse to open the folded ballot paper to show the clerk what you have written; after all, your vote is secret, isn’t it?
I don’t know what would happen if hundreds, thousands or even more of us refuse to vote for any candidate, but it will certainly be the way in which I will exercise my democratic right.