Surge in voters spoiling ballot papers across south west London

By Ed Southgate
December 20 2019, 11.45

Spoiled ballots soared by almost a third from the 2017 General Election in south west London.

Constituencies recorded a 32% surge in rejected ballot papers at last week’s election, with 2,552 in 2017 rising to 3,363 in 2019.

Wimbledon MP Stephen Hammond, who held his seat with a reduced majority, said: “For a lot of people this election was very difficult.

“I had a lot of people say ‘we like you, but we don’t want Brexit, we don’t like the Liberal Democrats so we don’t know what we are going to do’. I think there was an element of spoiled ballot papers from that.

“For many people this was a more difficult election in terms of the choices in front of them, particularly given Wimbledon was a heavily remain constituency and therefore there may have been some element of that difficulty.”

A spoiled ballot, which is counted and included in turnout figures, is often used by voters as a political protest to register their dislike of any party or candidate.

Of the 20 south west London constituencies, 17 reported a rise in spoiled ballots since 2017.

The number of voters spoiling their ballots in Croydon South almost doubled from 123 in 2017 to 222 in 2019.

INTERACTIVE GRAPH: Spoiled ballots in south west London 2017 and 2019

Rejected ballots in Sutton and Cheam rose by more than half from 123 to 211, while Wimbledon reported an increase from 127 to 217.

Of three constituencies reporting a fall, Kensington had the largest down from 118 to 92.

The rise was less dramatic from the 2015 election with just 401 more south west London voters spoiling their ballots last week, representing a 13% increase.

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage, who did not have any candidates of his own party standing in his constituency, notably told the Question Time Under 30s Special audience he planned to spoil his ballot.

He said: “I think you should vote, and spoiling your ballot paper is a form of voting.”

He insisted Boris Johnson’s deal “is not Brexit” as his justification.

Mr Hammond added: “Once the election is over I am there to represent everybody in my constituency whether they spoiled their ballot paper, voted Liberal or Labour or even supported me.

“It is disappointing people were voting for none of the above but the key thing for me now is to represent everybody in Wimbledon.”

He said while it is impossible to speculate if the rise signifies the start of a longer trend in spoiled ballots his guess is that it will more likely be temporary.

Ballot papers can be rejected for want of an official mark, voting for more than one candidate, writing or marking the paper so the voter could be identified, or being unmarked or wholly void for uncertainty.

The 2019 election saw Boris Johsnon win the largest majority for his Conservative Party since the 1980s with 365 seats, while Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour suffered its biggest loss since 1935 with 203 seats.

Five constituencies in south west London saw its colours change. Among them was former MP Justine Greening’s Putney seat being taken by Labour.

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