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Selfie in the polling station = very bad idea

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Matt Tate
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Please get in touch if you can think of anything more millennial than a stern warning about the risks of whipping out your phone for a mischievous post-vote selfie next to the ballot box. 

It sounds innocent enough. What could possibly be wrong with celebrating the sweet, sweet exercising of that even sweeter democratic right in view of everyone on the timeline? 

Well, quite a lot actually. Taking a picture in the polling station could be deemed as breaching the sacred secrecy of the ballot, or more officially, a violation of Section 66 of the Representation of the People Act 1983. Worst case scenario, it could land you with a £5,000 fine or six months in prison and, obviously, an invalid vote. As highlighted by The Guardian, the Electoral Commission has stated that there isn’t a law specifically prohibiting polling station selfies, and as far as they know nobody has been prosecuted for it. But this is grey area stuff.

First, the things you definitely are allowed to do. #dogsatpollingstations, also known as the most important thing to happen to British democracy in the 21st century, is absolutely fine. By all means, it’s encouraged. Fans of Adam Buxton’s podcast (you, if you know what’s good for you) will appreciate this one.

It’s also generally fine to get your selfie on once you’re outside, as expertly demonstrated here by Nathalie Emmanuel aka Game of Thrones’ Missandei. 

But you could risk breaching the aforementioned Representation of the People Act if a photograph you take indicates how you or another person has voted or makes visible the unique identification number on a ballot paper. You’re very much committing an offence if you’re interfering or attempting to interfere with another voter while making their vote, as you are if you obtain or attempt to obtain information in a polling station about the way in which someone has chosen to vote. Considering how busy these places get, it’s feasible that someone could accuse you of trying to sneakily obtain such information if you’re seen to be waving a camera lens about. Just don’t do it. 

And to conclude, a handy reminder that any (law-abiding) selfie-takers should head straight for their nearest BrewDog with the evidence. They’re giving a free Punk IPA to everyone who presents them with a photograph, and few things are more satisfying a cold tall boy after doing your bit on election day.

(Image: Rex)

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Matt Tate

Matt Tate is a freelance journalist

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