Why a Spoiled Vote was an ANC Vote

May 18, 11 Why a Spoiled Vote was an ANC Vote

Judging from some of the feedback on Twitter and Facebook from many of my intellectual friends, spoiling your ballot as an act of protest against the parties that you cannot find any reasonable accord with has become the new political activism du-jour. I had thought that the reasons for not doing so were obvious enough, but as the reassuring back-slaps of the spoilers grow in number, it seems pertinent to point out what it was that the lot of you actually did in the booth today.

As an interesting mathematical principle, spoiling your ballot really did little except give a sliver of an edge to whoever had the majority, by fractionally reducing the number of votes in the pool (and thereby giving the majority vote-winner a larger share of said pool). Consider this thought experiment as a way of illustrating the point:

In a fictitious country of 100 people, 66 of which vote party A and 33 of which vote party B, your non-vote will have the effect of reducing the pool fractionally to a poll of 99 votes – thereby giving a 2/3 majority to party A which they did not previously have. (Assuming, cheekily, that 2/3 of the polled votes matter in this fictitious country) This happens because the spoiled vote meant that – for the purposes of polling – we lived in a 99 person country, instead of a 100 person country, making each unspoiled vote cast just a little more powerful)

This is true always of not turning up to vote.

It’s also true of spoiling your ballot in polls which (like ours, unless I am seriously mistaken? Anyone correct me?) spoiled ballots are not counted as a separate total in the counting, to potentially result in null parliamentary seats. Other systems (which ours is not) that allow you to tick a ‘I hate you all’ box, where these ballots are totaled as a vote of apathy and can draw away from the percentage takes of other parties, would be a valid workaround to accommodate apathetic/angry voters without having them indirectly advantage the dominant party.

So the next election, if you feel the need to spoil your vote, make sure that you are are at least ambivalent about voting ANC, because that is the effect of your non voting. I don’t care either way who you vote for, but the maths of this has been irking me long enough that I finally have to say it – before I suffer another “my non-vote/spoiled ballot is a neutral/protest vote” self-congratulation.

Your non-vote can be whatever you like intellectually. In reality, it is a fractional ANC vote.