Remember how the so-called “hanging chads” decided the election in Florida that first inflicted president George W Bush on the world? These were the punched ballot papers that were not properly counted because some of the punched out paper remained connected.
It is possible that the relatively poor performance of the minor parties, the greens, Solidarity and the SSP in Scotland may have been influenced by a poorly designed ballot paper.
As Kevin Williamson explains :
“In 2003 the first vote on page one of the voting form was for the Constituency vote. What happened in 2003 was that 100,000s of people voted for a big party on the first page then turned it over and thought "I'll give my other vote to a small party or an independent." Maybe the Scottish Office wanted to try and avoid that happening again.
“However, when they put both votes on the same page what they didnt realise was that over 100,000 people read "YOU HAVE TWO VOTES" at the top of the page, and then saw what appeared to be one long list. Folk may have marked it with an X twice in the first column and as a result their votes have been deemed spoiled.
“If that is the case then it will become apparent very soon when they check the spoiled papers - cos they will find two votes in the first column in lots of them.
“If it is then another interesting ramification will automatically follow. The folk who vote SNP-SNP or TORY-TORY or LAB-LAB will not be the ones whose ballots have been spoiled. You cant do that in one column.
“The spoiled ballots will probably be the ones where people voted for two different parties, eg a big party and a small party. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why the small parties lost out. Cos up to 100,000 votes for them were annulled.”
This explanation is given extra credence by a report in the Scotsman newspaper on 5th May: “John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, said the level of spoiled papers was "unprecedented" in UK election history. He went on: "Huge numbers of people have cast two votes in one column and none in the other, rendering both votes void. The ballot paper says 'you have two votes' and it appears this is where the confusion may have been caused."
If there is a legal challenge then this will primarily assist the Green party and Tommy Sheridan. The SSP would still not win any seats, as they came behind other minor parties.
I will return to the discussion of the SSP's performance in a later post, becasue relevence is wider than the Scottish left, and is also significant to the general position of the left in England and Wales.