Suppose I vote today, in the UK general election, by making a mark as usual in a box, but I also add a protest comment in handwriting on the ballot form.

Does this stop my vote being valid or counted? For example because the voter might be identifiable from the handwriting or otherwise, or any other reason?

For info: I'm in England, since different regions may have different law on this. I also know its a pointless gesture but still wish to (but not at the cost of my vote).

1 Answer 1


The rules governing valid and spoiled ballots for the UK can be obtained from the electoral commission at https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/sites/default/files/pdf_file/UKPE-doubtfuls-booklet.pdf

2.2 The (A)RO may only reject a ballot paper on the following grounds:

• it does not contain an official mark

• a vote for more than one candidate has been given

• it contains a mark or writing by which the voter can be identified

2.3 A ballot paper must not be rejected because the vote is:

• not marked in the proper place

• marked other than by a cross

• marked by more than one mark

So as previous precedent has established, drawing a penis in a box counts as a valid vote if the drawing is entirely contained within the box.

So as long as you clearly vote for only one candidate and don't add anything which might identify you, the vote should be valid.

Any contentious votes are put aside for a decision by the Returning Officer (I believe it is done with observation by the candidates in case they want to argue any individual decision).

I don't know whether a ballot which clearly votes for one candidate but has other text written elsewhere would qualify as contentious, and can't tell you whether it would be seen by the Returning Officer (and candidates) or not.

  • 5
    In other jurisdictions (like Germany) votes with comments on them are rejected because the presence of the comment itself can be used to link the vote to the voter who made it (with the voters cooperation).
    – Philipp
    Commented Dec 12, 2019 at 12:09
  • 4
    Indeed, maybe the "it contains a mark or writing by which the voter can be identified" would apply. You promise to vote X because of bribery/pressure and your are asked to mark the ballot with an specific symbol to know which is your ballot and ensure that you did comply. In Spain (where anyone can register to be part of the counting of the ballots) it would be an invalid ballot.
    – SJuan76
    Commented Dec 12, 2019 at 12:27
  • @Philipp Not sure on that. The last time I was election helper, the guy from the town hall explicitly had an example ballot where four of the five candidates were crossed out, two labelled dickheads, the other two labelled idiots and the middle candidate had been marked as intended; I seem to recall that ballot was to be considered valid as the voter’s intention was clearly recognisable.
    – Jan
    Commented Dec 12, 2019 at 16:34
  • 1
    @Jan BWahlG §39 (1) Point 5 says votes are invalid if they have any additions. So when this was a Bundestagswahl, you were instructed incorrectly. But note that the federal states have different voting laws which apply to federal and municipal elections. So if it was such an election, then the local law might say something else.
    – Philipp
    Commented Dec 12, 2019 at 16:44
  • @Philipp It was local elections (and a long time ago™)
    – Jan
    Commented Dec 12, 2019 at 16:47

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