Highest ever number of votes rejected in election 2018

August 1, 2018

Pakistani election officials count ballots papers after polls closed at a polling station in Lahore on July 25, 2018 -AFP

More than 1.6 million votes were disqualified in the July 25 elections—the highest ever.

A look at trends shows that it was never this high.In 1993, only 0.27 million votes were disqualified. This number slowly goes up every election year. It levels out in the 2013 general election when roughly 1.5 million votes were disqualified.

Looking at these numbers in isolation can be misleading. After all, Pakistan’s population has been going up, so has then the number of voters and by that logic, the number of disqualified votes. We also try to see if the turnout effects votes rejected

To adjust for the population growth factor, we looked at the percentage of votes rejected from the turnout of each election year.

Below is a collection of scatter charts. They show you how many people voted or turnout on the bottom or x-axis. The y-axis is the percentage of votes disqualified/rejected (of the total votes cast). Each dot represents the turnout and the percentage of votes disqualified in one constituency, for an election year, in the National Assembly.


Up till 2008 we see only 11 constituencies where more than 5% of votes were disqualified. Then the scatter thickens in 2013 and 2018. The disqualified votes more than double in 2013 (24 constituencies). In 2018, this number goes up 25. In some cases we see the percentage of disqualified votes increase with an increase in turnout, however we don’t observe this trend across a statistically significant portion of the constituencies.

Why have more and more votes been disqualified? Why are so many votes being rejected? From this data we formed these three possible explanations:

1) Over the years fewer and fewer voters are educated in how to cast their vote correctly.
2) The election commission has been unable to cope with the rising number of ballot papers. We formed this theory because we saw that the number of votes rejected seems to be directly proportional to the number of votes cast in most constituencies.
3) The rise in the number of rejected votes is directly proportional to the increase in population. As the population has gone up, more Pakistanis have voted, and by that token more have made ‘mistakes’ leading to invalidated votes.

A lot of parties have been crying foul play over a large number of votes being disqualified, and instances where the margin of victory is less than the votes disqualified. Read our detailed piece about this phenomenon here
Analysis based on ECP data