September 26, 2011

Ontario election mechanics: how to decline your ballot

Filed under: Cancon, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 09:15

If you have as uninspiring a selection of candidates running in your riding as I do, you may feel like there’s no point in voting. You do, however, have an alternative: you can effectively vote for “None of the above” if you decline your ballot:

     53. An elector who has received a ballot and returns it to the deputy returning officer declining to vote, forfeits the right to vote and the deputy returning officer shall immediately write the word “declined” upon the back of the ballot and preserve it to be returned to the returning officer and shall cause an entry to be made in the poll record that the elector declined to vote. R.S.O. 1990, c. E.6, s. 53.

A recent article in the Ottawa Citizen explains why it may matter to publicize the number of declined ballots rather than just lumping declined ballots in with blank or spoiled ones:

Ontario’s Chief Electoral Officer is neglecting to tell voters about a crucial right to choose “none of the above” in the upcoming election, says a third-party watchdog.

The right to decline a ballot is enshrined in Ontario’s election act, says Democracy Watch spokesman Duff Conacher, but is unpublicized by the agency and its head, Greg Essensa.

Whereas spoiled ballots are rejected and considered cast by “stupid” people who “don’t know how to mark an ‘X’ in the box,” says Conacher, declined ballots are interpreted much more clearly.

They are the product of active, but dissatisfied, voters.

“Let’s assume five per cent of voters are not turning up now because they don’t support the current parties and their platform,” Conacher said in an interview. “If they did turn out and that was reported on election night, you’re going to see parties fall over themselves to find out what those five per cent want. Right now they don’t because those people stay at home.”

H/T to Jon, my former virtual landlord, for providing the links.


  1. I’m guessing spoiling your ballot at least provides some entertainment value. On the other hand officially declining tells me you can’t or don’t want to choose, but still are fine with paying the cost to yourself.

    Comment by Ray K. — September 27, 2011 @ 08:53

  2. My son voted today and decided on a “none of the above” by spoiling his ballot. He had to wait while the ballot was read by a machine and it indicated an error. He then had to explain in the polling station that he spoiled his ballot in a manner that was told him by an Elections Ontario staff member. So much for a secret ballot!

    Spoiling your ballot or declining a ballot indicates that you care but will not support any of the current candidates. That IMHO is as significant or even more significant that voting for a candidate. You made the effort to vote even when you knew that you would not be supporting any candidates.

    Comment by Douglas G. — September 27, 2011 @ 18:32

  3. “You made the effort to vote even when you knew that you would not be supporting any candidates.”

    I fail to see the virtue.

    Comment by Ray K. — September 28, 2011 @ 08:49

  4. A spoiled ballot is usually assumed to be the work of someone who is not serious (or is not emotionally capable of exercising the franchise). A refused ballot is a different thing entirely. A refused ballot is the closest mechanism we have to literally say “I vote for none of the above”. Not voting sends a different message: “I don’t care what the government does, I’m okay with it.”

    Comment by Nicholas — September 28, 2011 @ 09:01

  5. I don’t assume any of those things. Why do you?

    I can just as easily write that a spoiled ballot is assumed to be the work of someone who doesn’t care, not voting sends the message: “The government will do what it wants to anyway, so why should I bother”, and a refused ballot is saying: “Nobody on this list has offered to give out what benefits me personally”.

    Comment by Ray K. — September 29, 2011 @ 13:08

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