The plague of blank ballots

In case you didn’t know, I had a little newsletter on related themes on books I have read, so you might want to consider adding them to your shelves too. Hence, Prepare Your Shelves. People thought it’s a clever name, but I initially thought of Shelve Awareness which is much cleverer but it was already taken.

Anyway, it’s already on its 7th edition and here it is.

In light of recent Malaysia’s 14th General Election, I felt that it is pretty apt that I wanted to introduce a new addition to my shelf from Portuguese author José Saramago called Seeing. The novel deals with a general election taking place in an imaginary nation where the absolute majority of the electors decides to opt for blank votes. All hell breaks loose. Ministers fight for what to do, people are looking for scapegoats, no food or people are allowed to enter or exit, and large demonstrations soon take place in the city.

These days, blank and spoiled votes as a form of protest are often regarded as electorally marginal, when they are actually valid voter expressions that have been exercised all over the world. Moreover, it serves more weight than abstention — the latter is often done out of apathy or lack of information while the former is often done out of a rejection of a broken current system.

As Malaysians are still elated from the enormity of the last election’s results, as beautifully written by Tash Aw, I decided to compile some readings related to José Saramago’s Seeing, the author himself, on elections and on voting.

— The plague of blank ballots. “In a functioning democracy, one can consider not voting a lazy protest liable to play into the hands of the party in power.” Ursula K Le Guin’s review on Saramago’s illuminating parable.

An interview with José Saramago. “I don’t have odd habits. I don’t dramatise. Above all, I do not romanticise the act of writing. I don’t talk about the anguish I suffer in creating.”

Blank and null voting as sophisticated protest. “…blank and null vote (BNV) is primarily a form of political expression used by discontented, educated voters, leveraging the symbolic value of the ballot.” Side note: Professor Chiara Superti wrote a lot on unconventional voting so if you’d like to know more on the topic, search for her work.

Ballot design matters. Time to redesign the ballot papers for a better voter user experience!

Vote Dark Side, like literally. In other countries, cartoon and fictitious characters are typically written as write-in candidates as a form of protest vote, or nominated for candidacy, as in this case of the Internet Party in Ukraine.

Inside voting booths around the world. Gambia!

If you want to read the archives, which includes some stories on the little gap between life and death called the purgatory, robbing the banks of London & finding out that the universe apparently chirps, go here.

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