“Vote one Santa”, “have a nice day”, and ticked boxes instead of numbers are just some of the things election workers have come across on ballot papers while counting the votes for the Orange and Cabonne council elections.
Some voters even chose to leave their ballot paper totally blank.
Of the 22,475 votes for the Orange council election, 7.46 per cent, or 1677, were considered informal because voters had not followed the instructions correctly.
At the last election in 2008, around 6 per cent or 1081 votes were informal of the 17,916 total.
While the ballot papers with messages are still counted as part of the tally if the squares are numbered correctly, the blank ballot papers and those that don’t follow the rules are excluded from the final count.
Councillor-elect and mayoral hopeful Russell Turner said the rate of informal votes was disturbing.
“It’s fairly obvious the ticket was a bit confusing,” he said.
“Even the referendum was confusing, I know some who voted yes when they meant to vote no.”
Cr Turner said some voters would not have known the election was on.
“People need to be reminded that it is a privilege to vote,” he said.
Returning officer Ross Baker said blank ballot papers accounted for most informal votes and the rest were numbered incorrectly.
“Some people don’t really want to vote,” he said.
“We explain how to vote when we hand out the ballot papers but you always get a few people who don’t understand.
“We try to help them the best we can.”
Ballot papers with votes above and below the line were put aside during the counting process as ‘other’ votes but were still factored into the final tally if either the above or below-the-line votes were numbered correctly.
After the first preferences count earlier this week, there was a high informal vote of 11.43 per cent or 2566 of the 22,450 received.
But Mr Baker said this figure also included the ballot papers with above and below-the-line votes, which were factored into the final count.
The mayoral referendum held in conjunction with the election saw 860 informal votes of the total 22,396, a rate of 3.84 per cent.