Whatever you do, don’t spoil your ballot paper today

It is always possible to decide that one candidate is better than another, argues John Rentoul

Thursday 05 May 2022 12:05
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<p>I understand that some people feel strongly about a single issue, and are frustrated when none of the candidates on the ballot shares that view</p>

I understand that some people feel strongly about a single issue, and are frustrated when none of the candidates on the ballot shares that view

I am here to disagree respectfully with Harriet Williamson, my colleague and editor, who wrote yesterday that she was thinking of spoiling her ballot paper in today’s elections. I don’t think that is ever a good idea, unless you are in a dictatorship with one name on the ballot, in which case it is a bad idea because the secret police will probably hunt you down.

But in a democracy, however imperfect, it is always possible to decide, according to your own values, that, given any pair of candidates, one is better than the other, even if the difference is marginal and complicated by a strong dislike of both of them.

Not voting, even in the active form of spoiling a ballot paper, is worse than pointless. All it does is say: “I want to let everyone else decide.” If a Labour councillor is usually elected in your ward, and you expect them to be again, you are saying: “I am fine with that, but I just want to make a point that no one will notice.”

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