TALK of mass confusion at the ballot box on Friday failed to translate into a high number of spoilt votes in the Seanad abolition referendum.
While the public were advised by writers Fintan O'Toole, Breda O'Brien and others to write the word "Reform" on their ballot papers, the level of spoilt votes remained well below 2 per cent. Only a small number of people seemed to take their advice and defaced their ballot papers with various reform-themed slogans.
A number of ballot papers were deemed spoiled because voters wrote "Reform" on the ballot paper.
A decision on whether to reject a ballot is at the discretion of the local returning officer.
The rule is being interpreted in different ways across the country.
The Department of the Environment said voters "run the risk" of their vote being spoiled if they write anything on the ballot paper.
The department said it warned against writing on ballot papers.
"It is a matter for the returning officer," a spokesman said.
In a number of locations, including Dublin city and Louth, returning officers ruled out any papers that had "reform" written on the bottom – even where the voting preference was clearly marked No.
Throughout Friday, TDs and senators across the country reported receiving a lot of complaints about the ballot papers being confusing.
This led to an expectation early yesterday that there would be a high number of spoilt votes but they totalled less than 15,000 out of a total poll of almost one million voters.
As a result, it is clear that those who did enter the polling booths unclear as how to vote, decided to vote No rather than spoil their votes.
Referring to the difficulty with the ballot papers, Fine Gael Party chairman Charlie Flanagan, who represents the Laois Offaly constituency, said he had seen "exam papers which were easier to read".