Spoiling your ballot? Think again

You are probably going to learn something here, so keep reading – after you pick your jaw up off the floor over the fact I’m blogging about… politics. WTF?

It’s no secret that this year I’m working the Alberta election – it’s an interesting opportunity and using a flex day to make a little money is no skin off my back. However, little did I know I’d learn so much about the democratic experience in Alberta.

Now, before I launch into my actual post, I’m going to rant a little here…

Apathy sign

Don’t get me wrong – I am highly encouraging everyone to 1) Do research on candidates in your riding and 2) Vote for the candidate/party that most jives with your priorities and way of thinking. There ARE more than two parties in this election (I’m sure everyone is Wild Rose and PC’d out). In fact, did you know that there are a total of TEN affiliations in this election? In my riding, there are six candidates for me to choose from, and I have already chosen the candidate I will be voting for during the advance polls.

But… since taking the training for my position during the election, I’ve noticed some confusion around voting procedures. Add in the fact that we’ll be voting for up to three Senate representatives as well (most of you are saying “What Senate?”) and it’s about clear as mud.

Did you know there are four ways you can participate in this election?

  • Voting for a candidate – do this! This is the #1 most recommended action, in anyone’s opinion. Put in your vote for who you think should represent your riding; even if your candidate doesn’t win, this gives you license to complain bitterly about the government until the next election. I have opinions on voting for your truly best candidate vs. voting for the lesser of two evils most likely to take office, but I’m going to leave that subject alone
  • Don’t vote at all – this is the worst possible option. Some people believe not voting is the same thing as not endorsing any of the candidates, but basically you just look like a lazy git who couldn’t be bothered to travel the short distance to your polling station. It doesn’t send any message, except that you don’t care (see definition for apathy – being apathetic is pathetic, people).
  • Spoiling a ballot – I see MANY mentions of this one the last couple of weeks. In fact, well-educated and intelligent people believe that if they don’t support any of the candidates, but they know that not voting is not sending a message, they’ll spoil the ballot and THAT is the best option to let parties know that they need to get their acts together. Which makes me believe more information regarding the electoral process needs to be disseminated to the voting public. Hence why I’m writing this blog post. All spoiling your ballot does is say that you aren’t smart enough to follow directions or that your dexterity leaves enough to be desired that you can’t make a discernible X in a circle. Think about it.


  • Declining a ballot – If you’ve done your research, gone to the candidate forums, watched the leaders’ debate and STILL can’t bring yourself to vote for a single candidate in your riding, you do have an option to decline your ballot. How does this differ from spoiling your ballot? Spoiled ballots are discarded. You are counted as a voter, but your ballot DOES NOT COUNT  as a valid vote because the Deputy Returning Officer couldn’t tell what your intentions had been. On the other hand, declining your ballot gives a strong message that you are willingly not voting for any candidate, and your vote COUNTS AS A VALID VOTE. Naturally,  you will not be tallied during counting as you did not enter a vote for a candidate, but when all is said and done, your vote still stands on record.

It is expected that many people will decline their Senate ballots – it’s a lesser-known election and most people will not familiarize themselves with the candidates, therefore unable to make an informed decision. Hence why I will once again present the link for the Senate candidates and encourage you to spend 15 minutes looking over the candidates – you can vote for up to three (1, 2 or 3).

So, long story short?

  1. Do your research
  2. Vote early, vote once
  3. Rejoice, or complain bitterly


  1. I may be a little dim here, but how does one “decline” a ballot? Do you go to your polling station, tell them who you are, and then tell them that you don’t want your ballot?

  2. @Vincci That is right. You register and when you are handed the ballot you indicate that you wish to decline it. Election Act: Section 107. This option is only available during a provincial election in Alberta, Manitoba and Alberta. Great way to say – “None of the above”.

  3. Thanks, Marcy! Yup, Vincci – you just tell the Deputy Returning Officer that you would like to decline your ballot when they offer it to you.

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