Socialist Worker

Rejected ballots in Scotland: a system designed to confuse

by Penny Howard, Solidarity, Dennistoun Branch
Issue No. 2050

DRS staff at the election count

DRS staff at the election count


The Scottish elections were marred by over 100,000 rejected ballot papers, disenfranchising a large proportion of voters.

This is a massive increase in the number from the last Scottish parliament elections in 2003.

In Glasgow the number of spoilt ballots for the regional list elections jumped from 1,202 in 2003 to 9,610 in 2007.

In Glasgow Shettleston there were 992 rejected ballots last week, compared to just 20 in 2003.

In Glasgow Kelvin the number of rejected ballots leapt from 155 to 1,195.

If you counted the constituency and list elections together you would get approximately double the number of rejected ballots.

This vast increase was mostly due to confusion brought around by a redesign of the ballot paper. In 2003, the constituency ballot was considered your first vote and the list ballot the second vote.

Smaller parties

This year the list vote was considered your first vote, and then the constituency ballot was considered the second vote.

Many people argued that the Labour Party rearranged this in order to disadvantage smaller parties.

Both votes were on the same ballot paper, which said, “You have two votes”, printed at the top. Many people then marked their two votes in the first column, which invalidated their vote.

We were able to see these rejected ballot papers at the vote count and many of the rejected papers had a vote for Labour and a vote for Solidarity in the same column.

The fact that the council elections were held at the same time and used a different voting system also added to the confusion.

Amy Rodger, Scotland director for the Electoral Reform Society, said, “From what we have seen about the ballot papers that were filled in wrongly, it does seem to be something about the way it was designed or the instructions that were given.”

The DRS Data and Research Services private company administered Scotland’s elections. Its computer failure caused ballot delays and suspensions.

Former Labour leader Neil Kinnock is a non-executive director of DRS and was paid £20,000 in 2006.


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