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In the Portuguese legislative elections, are blank votes distributed equally by all parties or it depends on any factor?

  • Please specify which country / voting system you have in mind. – JJ for Transparency and Monica May 31 at 11:18
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    @JJJ Portugal, electoral system, Legislative elections – MindTrasher May 31 at 11:20
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Portugal does not have a distribution of blank or null votes. These are separated from the remaining votes prior to the distribution of seats in the Assembly of the Republic (name of the Portuguese national parliament), and have no effect in the distribution of seats.

As a side note for people not familiar with Portuguese nomenclature, a legislative election is an election for the primary legislative body, in the case of Portugal the national Parliament. This is similar to a General Election in other nations.


This is one of the frequently asked questions in the National Election Committee (pt: Comissão Nacional de Eleições) which defines a blank vote (pt: Voto Branco) as:

(translated from Portuguese)

1. What is a blank vote?

It's a ballot paper without any marks.

And a null vote as:

(translated from Portuguese)

2. What is a null vote?

A null vote is a ballot paper with:

  • More than one assigned slot.
  • An unclear assigned slot.
  • A slot of party that has been rejected or given up on the elections.
  • A cut, drawing, or strike-through.
  • A word has been written.

It further answers the question of what happens if the null and blank votes are superior to any given candidate:

(translated from Portuguese)

3. What happens if, in an election, the blank and null votes are superior to any of the votes for a candidature?

Blank votes, as well as null votes, not being expressed in a valid way, have no influence in the distribution of votes per candidature and their conversion to mandates. Even if the number of blank or null votes is a majority, the election is valid and the mandates assigned considering the valid votes.

You can find more information in the Election Law for the Assembly of the Republic (pt: Lei Eleitoral da Assembleia da Républica), more specifically in the Articles 102° and 103° which states:

(translated from Portuguese)

Article 102° - Vote counting

1 - One of the referees unfolds the ballots, one by one, and announces out loud the voted list. Another referee registers, in a white paper or, preferably, in a clearly visible board, and separately, the attribution of votes to each list, the blank votes, and null votes. ...

Article 103° - Destination of the null votes, or the ones protested

The null ballots and the ones protested are signed and sent to the Assembly of the Republic for scrutiny, with all the documentation concerning this subject.

  • I always heard that blank votes were distributed along the parties. Guess I was wrong.. Thanks for the help. – MindTrasher May 31 at 14:19
  • @MindTrasher The effect is, in practice, the same. Since the votes do not count for the distribution of seats, parties with a greater share of the vote will also have more seats in the AR (regardless of the share of blank or null votes). – armatita May 31 at 14:21
  • Even if it doesn't count for the distribution of seats, it can count for the % of Money earned by a party in the end of the elections. Correct me if I'm wrong. – MindTrasher May 31 at 14:29
  • @MindTrasher I would say yes because I believe this value is related to the absolute number of votes the party got. But I would need to check to make sure. For now I would argue point 2) in Article 5° for the Law of Party Financing says exactly that. – armatita May 31 at 14:37
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    Do you think "em voz alta" would better be translated as "out loud" rather than "in high voice"? The latter sounds like it's about pitch. – Obie 2.0 Jun 1 at 3:57
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Portugal uses the d'Hondt method for allocating seats to parties in each constituency. In this method, seats are allocated one at a time to parties based on a quotient Q = V/(S+1), where V is the number of votes the party has received, and S is the number of seats the party has so far.

Blank votes are not considered in the allocation of seats to parties. They are simply reported by the electoral commission, separate from votes that are invalid for other reasons.

It is worth noting that, in the 2015 election, just over 2% of votes were blank. Lisbon is the only constituency with enough seats that a party getting 2% would win anything.

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