Nfld. & Labrador

NDP leader tiptoes away from 'spoil their ballots' advice, but encourages various protests

When pressed about comments she made to NTV, Alison Coffin didn't repeat the phrase "spoil their ballots," but said people should feel free to protest.

Alison Coffin says spoiling ballots is part of democratic process, but so are other forms of protest

Alison Coffin is the leader of the Newfoundland and Labrador New Democratic Party. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

Days after she suggested voters should "spoil their ballots" if they were in a district without an NDP candidate, Alison Coffin took a softer approach to the same subject.

When pressed by CBC News on whether or not she stood by those comments after some criticized the suggestion as undemocratic, Coffin said people should feel free to protest their vote.

"So are you advocating people spoil their ballots?" she was asked.

"I am advocating that people speak their minds and tell the current government that they are displeased with the democratic process, and they can do that in any way they want," Coffin said. "This is a democratic society."

Coffin said spoiling your ballot has always been part of the democratic process.

The provincial NDP plans to keep education costs level, maintaining the tuition freeze and rejecting any further cuts to post-secondary education. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

"It can be because they don't feel that their ideas are best represented by the individuals who have offered themselves as candidates."

The questions were put to Coffin during a press availability, where the NDP announced plans to keep the budget status quo for post-secondary education in the province and avoid further cuts.

What's a spoiled ballot?

The NDP is only running candidates in 14 of the province's 40 districts, and have blamed Liberal Leader Dwight Ball for calling an early election.

That led to Coffin telling NTV reporter Don Bradshaw:

"They can vote with their heart, they can spoil their ballot, they can write to the Ball government and say this was a mockery of democracy and let them know they are very upset with the way this election was handled."

A ballot can be spoiled in a variety of ways. It can be torn or damaged, marked incorrectly or straight up thrown in the garbage.

The province keeps track of rejected ballots, but does not break them down by ballots spoiled in protest versus ballots spoiled by accident.

A pair of polls this week indicate voter indecision is high in the province.

An MQO poll released on Tuesday suggested 39 per cent of respondents were undecided, a more popular choice than any of the parties. A poll by Abacus the next day had that number pegged at 21 per cent.

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Mark Quinn

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