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As an Italian voter for the 2013 political elections, I have the following options:

  • Give a regular vote
  • Abstain
  • Blank vote
  • Null vote (i.e. cross the whole ballot)

What are the net effects of the last three options? For example, do all of them favour the biggest party?

  • I'm pretty sure that they don't favour the biggest party. At least in The Netherlands it's a common misconception that they do. I'm not sufficiently sure for Italy to post that as an answer. – gerrit Feb 13 '13 at 16:05
  • You also had the choice to refuse your ballot (not that I know the answer to your question anyway). – o0'. May 3 '13 at 12:49
  • Dowvoting the answers not because they say wrong things, but because they do not answer the question: he asked what was the net effect, i.e. what actually happens, due to the rules, if you use one method rather than another one. – o0'. Sep 28 '13 at 16:22
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The effect on the election result, in Italy like in most countries is the same in all three cases: the vote will be discarted and the result will be determined by the valid votes. It is like saying "whatever the other voters want".

The same effect is obtained by voting on a little party that obtains less than the required threshold (for example 4% for the Italian Chamber of Deputies in the case of parties running outside of a coalition).

The difference of course is in the message:

If you abstain it looks like you do not care.

A blank or null vote seems to indicate that there is no party you really like, so it doesn't matter and you can as well accept what the others vote for. Some people might hope that if there are many blank votes this will create scandal and somehow improve the situation. A null vote can also indicate that the voter made a mistake.

Votes for small parties could be from voters hoping the party would pass the threshold. Some people have however suggested to purposefully vote on parties with no chance of going to the parliament, with the aim of showing how unrepresentative the parliament is.

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I'll try to summarize the different positions:

  • Abstain: I don't care about politics or I don't think that my vote may change anything. Total distrust in the democratic system.
  • Blank vote: I care about politics and democracy, but I can't find a decent partite which can really represent me.
  • Null vote: as above. Some people prefer to cast a null vote (and not a blank vote) in order to prevent poll-rigging. See also this article.

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