Is it illegal to take a selfie while voting in a polling station? | Politics

In a social media age, the temptation to record and post to the world that you have voted is greater than ever – especially in an election where campaigns have been actively encouraging young people in particular to spread the word and get the vote out.

However, the rules around photography at elections were drawn up long before Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat existed – so what precisely are you allowed to do?

Well, for a start, #dogsatpollingstations is fine, and traditionally trends on social media on polling days. This year the Dogs Trust has even teamed up with Twitter to try and set up “paw-ing stations”, despite the fact that dogs can’t take part in elections.

HannahJane Parkinson
(@ladyhaja)

this is going to give false hope to so many dogs pic.twitter.com/pNJFOOezk2


April 21, 2017

For humans, the situation is different. The Electoral Commission recommends that returning officers do not allow photography within polling stations. This is because of the secrecy requirements set out in section 66 of the Representation of the People Act.

Those working in polling stations are required to “maintain the secrecy of voting”, and photographs taken inside may inadvertently reveal the identity of other people voting, or how they have voted. In addition, it is an offence to “interfere with or attempt to interfere with a voter when recording his vote” and to “obtain or attempt to obtain in a polling station information” on how a voter “is about to vote or has voted”.

Trying to take pictures inside a busy polling station could be construed as an attempt to obtain that information. So while there isn’t a specific law against taking a selfie while you vote, it could land you in hot water.

However, the Electoral Commission has stated that it is not aware of anybody ever being prosecuted for taking a photo inside a polling station at election time.

Postal ballots are somewhat different.

Since the rules around photography are to do with maintaining secrecy in a polling station or polling place, that is not a consideration with postal voting. A spokesperson for the Electoral Commission confirmed that “a postal voter may take a picture of their own postal ballot paper and publicise, including via social media” even if it shows how they have voted.

But there’s a twist.

While it would not be an offence for somebody to post a picture of their own, it may be considered an offence to try to induce or persuade someone to publish photographs of their postal vote.

So, for postal voters, perhaps the safest course of action is to try to effectively combine #dogsatpollingstations with your postal vote selfie, and stick with that.

Stephen Massey
(@Stephen_CISO)

Not quite #dogsatpollingstations more #dogspostalvoting. Cooper takes voting very seriously #dontforgettovote #GeneralElection pic.twitter.com/rQzd3dZWSB


May 31, 2017

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