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Access_open Opening the Opaque Blank Box

An Exploration into Blank and Null Votes in the 2018 Walloon Local Elections

Tijdschrift Politics of the Low Countries, Aflevering 3 2019
Trefwoorden voting, elections, blank vote, invalid vote, abstention
Auteurs Jean-Benoit Pilet, Maria Jimena Sanhuza, David Talukder e.a.
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    In this article, we propose an in-depth exploration of blank and null ballots in the recent 2018 local elections in Wallonia (Belgium). In the official results, both blank and null ballots are merged together and are classified as invalid votes. After obtaining the authorization to access genuine electoral ballots, we study the votes which were not considered for the composition of local councils in detail. The dataset is a representative sample of 13,243 invalidated ballots from 49 Walloon municipalities. We first describe how many of these invalidated ballots are blank and how many are null votes, as well as the nature of the nulled votes (unintended errors or intentionally spoiled ballots). Second, we dig deeper into the differences between ballots that have been intentionally invalidated by voters (blank votes and intentional null votes) and ballots non-intentionally invalidated. Our results show that most of the ballots (two-thirds) are null ballots and that among them, half are unintentional null ballots. Finally, we show that contextual (socio-demographic and political) factors explain the variations in intentional and unintentional null votes across municipalities.


Jean-Benoit Pilet
Jean-Benoit Pilet is professor of political science at Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB). He works on elections, political parties, and democratic reforms. He has recently co-authored Faces on the Ballot. The Personalization of Electoral Systems in Europe (OUP, 2016, with Alan Renwick) and The Politics of Party Leadership (OUP, 2016, with William Cross).

Maria Jimena Sanhuza
Maria Jimena Sanhueza is PhD Researcher in Political Science at Universite Libre de Bruxelles where she is associated to three projects studying Belgian politics. Her research focuses on citizenship, representation and democracy. Before starting her PhD, Maria Jimena worked as assistant researcher for EU HORIZON 2020 projects Pathways to Power and Solidarity in Times on Crisis, and co-authored a few publications on European democracies and representation.

David Talukder
David Talukder is PhD candidate at the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB). He is conducting a thesis on the reform of representative democracy, looking at disadvantaged groups’ evaluation of representative democracy and demands for procedural democratic reforms. His main research interests are related to procedural democratic reforms, participatory democracy and democratic innovations.

Jérémy Dodeigne
Jérémy Dodeigne is associate professor in political science at the Université de Namur. His research areas cover the study of political representation in multilevel systems, local politics, comparative politics and mixed methods research designs. His work appears in journals such as Party Politics, American Behavioral Scientist, Local Government Studies, Regional & Federal Studies, Government & Opposition, and Representation.

Audrey E. Brennan
Audrey E. Brennan is completing a joint doctorate in political science at Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB) and Université Laval. Her research interests are political parties, elections, and political participation. Her dissertation studies the effect of leadership change mechanisms on the long-term behaviour of political party members.
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