The number of rejected ballot papers in St Helens’ local elections has quadrupled since 2018, as councils across the country saw a rise in spoiled votes.
This year 524 ballot papers were rejected across all 16 wards in the borough, up from 128 in 2018 – a 310 per cent increase.
Every ward saw a rise in rejected ballot papers – which includes those spoiled intentionally and unintentionally – with most wards seeing massive increases.
Earlestown saw the highest percentage increase while West Park saw the biggest volume of rejected ballot papers.
In 2018 the council rejected just three ballot papers in Earlestown. This year, the number soared to 48 – a 1500 per cent increase.
In West Park, 63 ballots were rejected, which is a 950 per cent increase compared to the 2018 elections.
The overall turnout in St Helens was 28.51 per cent, a slight increase from last year’s turnout of 27.73 per cent.
Like St Helens, local authorities across the UK have seen a rise in spoiled ballot papers at this year’s local elections.
It is not against the law to spoil your ballot paper but filling it out incorrectly will render it invalid.
Up and down the country disillusioned voters have been sharing pictures of their spoiled ballot papers on Twitter with the hashtag #SpoilYourBallot.
Campaign group Leave.EU urged people to spoil their ballot papers in retaliation for not leaving the EU as planned in March.
Just days after the Article 50 extension was announced by the government, Leave.EU tweeted: “The Conservatives depend on our votes.
“Instead of respecting our decision to leave the EU, they have chosen to stab us in the back.
“Send a message on May 2 by spoiling your ballot, writing in Brexit Party and show CCHQ (Conservative Campaign Headquarters) what happens when you defy the will of the British people!’”
Following the local elections, outgoing council leader Derek Long said the government’s failure to sort out the “Brexit mess” has hit ruling Labour and Tory votes across the country.
In St Helens, the ruling Labour group lost Haydock, Bold, Rainhill and Newton.
Green Party candidate David O’Keefe won the seat in Bold, which saw 32 ballot papers rejected, a 540 per cent increase on the previous year.
Coun O’Keefe believes Brexit was a factor in the overall number of spoiled ballots, but said the Local Plan and the prospect of green belt development likely had a bigger influence with voters in Bold.
“Brexit was a factor in the number of spoiled ballots,” Coun O’Keefe said.
“A rise from 5 to 32 spoiled ballots is not statistically significant. Brexit was not an issue in Bold Ward.
“It’s the Local Plan and green belt release that mattered to voters.”
While every ward in St Helens saw an increase in rejected ballot papers in 2019, only one remained virtually unchanged.
In Moss Bank, 12 ballot papers were rejected compared to 11 the previous year.
Labour’s John Fulham was re-elected to the ward last week, fighting off competition from five other candidates.
Coun Fulham said: “Moss Bank has always had a wide choice of candidates. In fact, it was solidly Lib Dem for 20 years.
“This year the public once again had a wide choice of candidates, more so than other wards.
“It’s always a shame when people spoil ballot papers as we must all make choices, but they are only a tiny percentage of voters and we have to listen to the overall message from the public.”