In voting, a ballot is considered to be spoilt, void, null or informal if it is regarded by the election authorities to be invalid and thus not included in the tally during vote counting.
This may be done accidentally or deliberately.
In the United States, it is common to distinguish between three classes of ballots:
• spoiled ballots -- ballots that have been torn, defaced or marked in error, and then returned by the voter to the election officials in exchange for a new ballot.
• invalid ballots -- ballots that contain stray marks or other markings that invalidate the entire ballot, and
• invalid votes -- marks on ballots that do not count as votes but that do not invalidate the counting of other votes found on the same ballot. The ballot becomes partially valid. Invalid votes are broadly divided into undervotes where no vote is cast in a race,[not in citation given] and overvotes, where an attempt is made to cast too many votes in a race.
"Socioeconomic variables such as urbanization and income inequality are associated with levels of invalid voting, while institutional variables such as compulsory voting, electoral disproportionality, and the combination of high district magnitude and a personalized voting system tend to increase blank and spoiled (sic) ballots. Moreover, regime-level factors such as political violence and the level and direction of democratic change also shape the rates of invalid voting." ( from an abstract from Scielo site )
Google books =>
The deadlock of democracy in Brazil
Null and Blank Voting
“Voting in Brazil is obligatory for all literate persons over eighteen; it is optional for illiterates and those between sixteen and eighteen. Since obligatory voting forces many
unwilling people to the polls, it is not surprising that surprising that Brazil has high levels of blank (em branco) and invalid (nulo) voting (Power and Roberts 1995). In the 1989 presidential election."
Election of 1994 - Second round
Candidate Votes %
Fernando Collor de Mello (PRN, PSC, PTR, PST) 35.089.998 49,94
Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT, PSB, PC do B) 31.076.364 44,23
Blank 986.446 1,40
Void 3.107.893 4,42
Total 70.260.701ª 100
ª: Abstention = 11.814.017.
Yes, in Brazil there are the blank and null (void) votes; the essayst in Scielo site mistook the spoilt vote for a null (void). Each void vote is an invalid one, in the sense of not being included in the tally, not every spoilt vote is null, from the above definition.
However, a spoiled vote (in the USA) can be returned to the voter, dependng on certain circumtances.
So, Dale´s answer is right. To American ears and eyes this can stick out like a sore thumb! he he.
But even American journalists are jumping at this bandwagon (albeit there aren´t such a word in their dictionaries...), in their features about Brazil, Nigeria (even Carter foundation has commented about Nigeria blank votes) and Europe.
About Europe blank voting there´s this feature at
Excerpts from comments from readers =>
" my.opinion wrote:
Jun 18th 2009 3:30 GMT
I just wonder what civic responsibility one takes by giving a blank vote. All one does is avoiding a fine in case there is compulsory voting.
Jun 18th 2009 3:40 GMT
if you don't go voting, your disatisfaction or preferences aren't registered : for all intent and purposes it's the same thing as saying "do whatever you want, I don't care".
voting blank is expressely saying : "I'm interested in those elections, but none of your bunch are fit for office" (less so in countries were voting is mandatory, but they are statistically very low at EU level).
what's the consequences ? in the latter, the realization that there is an untapped pool of voters whose aspirations are not yet reflected in the political spectrum (and therefore an opportunity for any canny politicians) ... while the former is best described as the "silent minority/majority", whose democratic credo is as strong as long as its stomach is full, and its week-ends sunny.
voting is a civic duty for any democrat.
Jun 18th 2009 4:27 GMT
This is an interesting interpretation, but does not make much sense to me. There is no count of 'blank' votes. They get lumped together with all 'invalid' votes (for all kinds of reasons), so you are not really making a statement. Even if you were to say: there is no party to my liking - what is the consequence? No one knows what you really want, and therefore your vote is lost like all the other invalid ones. Democracy is the freedom to vote and the freedom not to vote. "
*A bit of History of Brazilian elections (or an addition of mine)=>
Some time ago, blank and null where invalid votes in Brazil. Not anymore.
With the increasing number of blank votes, they decided (politicians I mean, not voters) include them in the tally.
In fact, the blank votes are included in the score of the candidate that have more votes.
Thus if a given candidate 'A' have 50 votes, 'B' got 51 blank votes numbered 4900; the election will be decided in the following way: the winner is candidate B with 5001 votes tallied . The math is 'B' has 51 votes plus 4900 that equals 5001.
Well, in the US, if candidate 'A' had one million Dollars and 'B' had two million; certainly 'B' would be the winner, it´s a bit of a simplification but it´s more or less this way.
Don´t expect perfection in Politics, just like in everything else.