Reader question: What is a vote blanc?

With France preparing to cast its vote, what does it mean to have a 'white vote'?

Reader question: What is a vote blanc?
Photo by Ludovic MARIN / POOL / AFP

Question: In the context of French elections I often hear people talking about a ‘vote blanc’ – what is this? Is it the same as spoiled ballots?

Un vote blanc is one of those French phrases that is pretty much exactly what it says – a blank vote – but describes a particular French tradition.

In French the word blanc or blanche can mean white, but also null or void, like une saison blanche (a void or forfeit season) or une nuit blanche (a sleepless night).

Voting is not compulsory in France, so come election time voters have the choice to simply stay away from the polls if they don’t feel enthused about any of the candidates on offer.

But there is also the option of casting a vote blanc. This involves going to the polling station, taking the ballot paper, ticking none of the candidates on offer and then sealing the paper in its envelope and posting it into the ballot box.

Unlike abstention – which can be down to a number of factors including political disengagement and sheer laziness – or spoiled ballot papers (referred to as votes nuls) – which can done by accident or misunderstanding – a vote blanc makes a clear statement that you have examined all of the candidates standing and are impressed by none of them.

At each count, the number of votes blanc is recorded along with the number of votes cast for each candidate.

This topic is one of a number of questions that we tackle in the latest issue of The Local’s podcast Talking France. If you have a question on aspect of French politics or elections, get in touch at [email protected]

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Beautiful game sparks ugly row at French parliament

Sport and charity work are among few subjects warring politicians unite around, but not so in the new French parliament where a dispute has erupted over whether far-right MPs can play in the assembly's football team.

Beautiful game sparks ugly row at French parliament

Left-wing parties and the governing Renaissance group of President Emmanuel Macron announced Tuesday they would boycott a charity game if the far-right National Rally (RN) joins the parliament side.

Even though the RN has historically high representation with 89 seats in the assembly, “that doesn’t mean that we should help them in their desire to normalise themselves,” government spokesman Olivier Veran told CNews television.

Senior Renaissance MP Aurore Berge fretted about the team photo, telling fellow centrist lawmakers: “We are not in the same team. Neither far-right, nor far-left.”

The row underlines a decades-long dilemma for mainstream French politicians over how to deal with the far-right parties of Jean Marie Le Pen and his daughter Marine Le Pen since their emergence in the 1970s.

Some have tried to boycott them entirely, including former president Jacques Chirac, who refused to debate Jean-Marie in 2002 when they faced off in the final round of the presidential election.

She scored 41.4 percent in the second round of April’s presidential election and the party increased its number of seats 10-fold in June’s parliamentary vote.

“It says a lot about these people in reality,” Le Pen told RTL radio on Wednesday about the football row. “It’s hatred all the time,  everywhere, non-stop fighting.”

Veran, an enthusiastic player in previous parliament charity matches, acknowledged his own misgivings about the boycott.

“In saying that I won’t go to play, I am taking part in a phenomenon that serves to reinforce the notion that they (the far-right) are ostracised, that they are victims of the system,” he said.