Don’t cry over spoilt votes

Do people go to voting stations to deliberately spoil their ballot? Some voters do exactly that, while other ballots are spoilt by mistake.

Ballots are spoilt when the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) counters are unable to identify the intention of the voter effectively. This can be due to the ballot being filled in incorrectly, words being written on it, several boxes being ticked or the ballot left unmarked.

The average number of spoilt votes in South Africa fluctuates, but the figure remains close to the global average of 1.6%.

This year, South Africa’s total number of spoilt votes has increased to 1.8%, or 386 906 from a total of 21 346118 votes cast. All provinces had more than 1% of spoilt ballots. North West and Free State recorded the highest number of spoilt votes, while Gauging and the Western Cape had the fewest.

President Jacob Zuma said he was looking forward to there being fewer spoilt votes this election. Spoilt votes are closely watched as they can provide an indication of political awareness and passive resistance, without being apathetic.

While some seem to endorse the idea as making an active statement, others believe that it is a futile betrayal and wasted opportunity.