back to article Don't snap SELFIES at the polls – it may screw up voting, says official

The selfie craze that continues to sweep the country could land some Brits in trouble if they unwittingly let slip how someone else votes in tomorrow's local and European elections. The Electoral Commission has advised staff at polling stations to discourage such activity, the BBC reports. "We have told staff that if they see …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Doesn't matter anyway...

    ... because they will always determine who you voted from by matching the Serial Number on the Ballot paper against your Number on the Polling Register recorded on the Counterfoil.

    1. jonathanb Silver badge

      Re: Doesn't matter anyway...

      It is illegal for you to take a photo of your own completed ballot paper because someone could have bribed/threatened you to vote in a particular way.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. Richard 120

          Re: Doesn't matter anyway...

          @Symon

          excellent, that means I can sell my vote numerous times, TYVM

        2. Nuke
          FAIL

          @Symon - Re: Doesn't matter anyway...

          Wrote :- "If someone did threaten you to .. vote in a certain way and take a picture as proof, you could fill in your ballot paper and photograph it, and then simply ask for a replacement paper and vote whichever way you wanted."

          That is no help if your boss/bully/landlord/gang-leader/wife is inside the polling station themselves, watching that you put your paper straight into the ballot box. Use your imagination.

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            1. h4rm0ny
              Facepalm

              Re: @Symon - Doesn't matter anyway...

              >>"@Nuke, ok, imagine this. If the vote rigger is in the polling station with you, why would they need you to take a photograph?"

              Because being in the polling station with you isn't the same as being in the polling booth with you. And anyone trying to inspect your card between you walking out of the booth and putting it in the box would be dealt with by the staff in pretty short order.

              Your own icon right back at you.

    2. Tom 260

      Re: Doesn't matter anyway...

      The reference numbers are only meant as a backstop in the case of widespread fraud (ballot stuffing and so forth), the photography rules are meant to stop individuals being bribed to vote one way or another, as there should be no proof that they could provide to an outside individual that they did so.

      For the European elections, given the large areas that each election region covers, plus the methodology of determining how many seats a party gets, that level of bribery *should* be impractical anyway (cheaper to bribe the MEPs once they've been elected!).

      However, many regions have local elections going on at the same time, where 1000 votes is often enough to return a candidate, so these are very vulnerable to any fraud.

      1. h4rm0ny

        Re: Doesn't matter anyway...

        >>"The reference numbers are only meant as a backstop in the case of widespread fraud (ballot stuffing and so forth), the photography rules are meant to stop individuals being bribed to vote one way or another, as there should be no proof that they could provide to an outside individual that they did so."

        Not only bribed, but coerced. My friend has helped out at polling stations and one source of friction was muslim men insisting on going into the polling booth with their wives and getting irate at being stopped.

        It's all too easy for a spouse or employer to pressure someone to vote a particular way. People of an older generation sometimes actually consider it unethical to ask someone which way they voted. Not sure if people still do.

        1. itzman

          Re: Doesn't matter anyway...

          That's why the 'family that votes one way' is now exclusively a postal vote......

      2. ceayers

        Re: Doesn't matter anyway...

        bollock$

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Party tellers can stand outside a Polling Station and ask people for their electoral roll number. This enables them to work out which of their probable supporters might need to be chivvied to turn out.

    It used to be the case that the tellers were briefed that they must not speak to a person before they have voted. Otherwise it could be construed as attempting to interfere with their vote. In those days there was often a policeman outside the Polling Station too.

    Nowadays any tellers have no hesitation is asking you for your number before you go through the door. I always ignore them. Then I take a pleasure in giving them my number unsolicited as a I leave - as I am on no party's "probable" lists.

    1. Valeyard

      Is this in the UK?

      I've never heard of or seen that before. If someone asked me anything about my voting habits they'd receive a lovely broken jaw*

      *Although I'm in England now I'm from Northern Ireland, where that kind of information could literally have fatal consequences

      1. Elmer Phud Silver badge

        "Is this in the UK?"

        Yes, and it's normal.

        No one is demanding anything -- it's against the law to do so and I have asked the resident copper to remind a particularly irksome Tory supporter that the fine/sentence also applies to them.

        Most people just stay silent and walk on, others will offer thier numbers without being asked.

        Some just say 'I didn't vote for your lot' to one of the poll checkers and go on thier way.

        Should you, for some odd reason, assault a person who is merely asking if they can have your number then the resident copper will be paying you the attention and not the poll checker.

        1. Valeyard

          Should you, for some odd reason, assault a person who is merely asking if they can have your number then the resident copper will be paying you the attention and not the poll checker.

          some odd reason?

          Go to South Armagh and ask a stranger their religion. That's not even a voting question but can be indicative. No one asks that kinda of question in a politically-charged landscape without probably nefarious intentions. You'll be met with, at best, a very suspicious glare and a hostile attitude

          back to this voting number, it mightn't be specifically asking who they voted for, but it's a question that people won't understand and will see as in some way trying to work out their vote

          1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

            @Valeyard

            I imagine the law is the same in NI as in the rest of the UK, but it is clear from your testimony and my experience that this works out differently in practice.

            I don't think I've ever lived in an area where there wasn't someone collecting the numbers. I know what they are doing and what they aren't allowed to do. I've never been asked about my vote and I have even had one tell me that they can't take my number until after I vote (which I didn't know at the time).

            Since I generally welcome people getting involved in the democratic process and live in a place where the mere act of voting is both optional and risk-free, I don't mind the parties knowing that I turned up. Mind you, these days I *know* half the candidates personally anyway, so I probably wouldn't actually need to give my number.

          2. JDX Gold badge

            @Valeyard

            If asking an innocent question incites typical folk to violence where you live, that's indicative that you live somewhere full of violent idiots rather than that the question is improper.

            Or are you not a fan of freedom of speech?

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: @Valeyard

              @JDX But any question that seeks private information is not innocent. I too am from Armagh and anyone asking me anything as I went to/from voting would elicit a rude if not violent reaction.

              But nowadays I believe my privacy is more important than playing the FAIL called democracy. I have not been registered to vote for 30 years.

    2. Eradicate all BB entrants

      No one ever stands ....

      .... outside the polling station I use as it isn't a primary school that can provide a photo opportunity. For many years I have wanted to give them a glare as I walked in but they have yet to fulfil this voters needs. That said in ten years of living where I do not one of them has ever doorstepped me, years of witty one liners and put downs gone to waste.

      1. Elmer Phud Silver badge

        Re: No one ever stands ....

        " For many years I have wanted to give them a glare as I walked in but they have yet to fulfil this voters needs. "

        They can't ask you on the way in.

        They can't even have a party name on their rosette.

        Both are seen as trying to influence the voter.

        1. MJB7

          Re: No one ever stands ....

          When I sat asking for numbers, a) all of us had party rosettes (although I don't know whether mine said "Vote Green" or was just coloured green; b) we all asked for the voter numbers on the way in - nobody objected.

        2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          Re: No one ever stands ....

          "They can't even have a party name on their rosette."

          ...or even the word "vote" on the rosette, as I found out a few years ago when I had carefully ensure I had a rosette with no name on it, it still said something like "vote today!" on it.

    3. Tom 260

      These are generally election observers, more interested in spotting whether they could have a case for electoral fraud should their candidate not win, and yes you don't have to give them your number, but I'm pretty sure they should not be asking you how you're voting. If you don't give them a number, they'll still keep a headcount, so as to have a good idea on how many votes there should be in a certain ballot box.

      There are also pollsters for the various companies that sell data to the media, who do ask people on exit how they voted, again entirely optional whether you talk to them, or lie to them, never seen one myself so not sure how they identify themselves.

      1. Valeyard

        That's pretty insane

        I'm pretty sure if they ever tried that in NI they'd be lynched pretty damn quickly

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          1. JulianB

            Yes and no. I've done a bit of this in the past. We only asked for the numbers, which could be passed back to the party to check if any of their expected supporters hadn't turned up and might be offered a lift or whatever. We would have no way of knowing how anyone actually intended to vote, or did vote. The representatives of the different parties happily shared info: we wouldn't know whether a given number was one of "ours" or "theirs".

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              @JulianB

              " I've done a bit of this in the past. We only asked for the numbers, which could be passed back to the party to check if any of their expected supporters hadn't turned up and might be offered a lift or whatever"

              It doesn't seem to have occurred to the major political parties that if they want people to vote, then trying to chivvy prospects to the polls may not be the best solution.

              A better approach might be to run the country for the benefit of the electorate, not MP's and their mates? To stop spending vast sums that the country doesn't have? To offer a simple level of basic competence when in office, and constructive criticism (rather than pompous grandstanding) when in opposition? To stop electing leaders and selecting ministers who are TOTALLY unrepresentative of the electorate, often have no credible work or life experience? To stop talking complete 5hit about "hard working families" whilst allowing global mega corps to pay no tax, and whilst running the printing presses to transfer wealth from savers? To stop lying all the time about everything? To be open and honest about problems facing the country?

              On second thoughts Julian, I think they'd better stick to placing a few wrinklies outside the polling station and having car on call for anybody who's forgotten that democracy needs them.

              1. Lamont Cranston
                Pint

                Re: @Ledswinger

                Thanks for that - I needed a good laugh.

          2. Benchops

            I assume it isn't illegal to answer them with a random number. There's no oath or purgery involved and it's not like you asked them to ask you! Remember Benford's law applies!

            1. Elmer Phud Silver badge

              "I assume it isn't illegal to answer them with a random number. "

              No, but try to use one that will work - the right numbeer of digits and the range.

          3. MJB7

            "This way they can find out from the electoral register who can be bothered to vote, and target their junk mail accordingly" - That's not right. Each party will buy a marked up electoral register indicating who voted after the election. The trouble is that doesn't appear until some time after the election, and they want to know who to send somebody round to with a "don't forget to vote" postcard.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              About 30 years ago all the major parties would have tellers in place at every polling station. Particularly for council elections - a party's back office could process the given numbers and work out how their candidate might be faring. Extensive door to door canvassing for several years had already established individuals likely voting patterns.

              If the tellers' counts looked close in a favourable ward - then they could throw extra effort into rounding up stragglers who hadn't yet voted. In those days you rang the bell to give the message personally. This was not always appreciated if you were the second or third reminder - or the door was answered by a belligerent member of the family who was voting for a different party.

              Can't remember the last time I was doorstep canvassed - or when there was a full complement of tellers at my polling station. Yet it still remains critical for parties to get the voters out who will, or might, support them. It's the votes that count - not the good intentions. Complacency is hard to distinguish from apathy - or even active disillusionment.

          4. the spectacularly refined chap

            No, they are party members who will simply ask for your electoral register number. IME, they won't ask you which way you voted. This way they can find out from the electoral register who can be bothered to vote, and target their junk mail accordingly. If you want to receive this mail during the next election campaign, tell them your number, otherwise just ignore them.

            They don't need to do that. The marked registers (the ones with the serial number jotted down on) are available for public inspection after the election, although the ballot papers they refer to obviously remain under lock and key. Who voted in any given election is public domain knowledge.

            1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

              NO NO NO NO NO NO NO!!!! The serial numbers are ***NOT**** available for public inspection, that needs an electoral court order with large amounts of evidence of likelyhood of fraud.

              What *IS* available for public inspection is a copy of the marked register - this is the normal electoral register with a line drawn through the name of each person who has voted (or a tick next to their name). This is the register used in the polling station itself which you see the polling clerk referring to before they give you a ballot paper to check that the person you claim to be hasn't already been crossed off.

              1. the spectacularly refined chap

                NO NO NO NO NO NO NO!!!! The serial numbers are ***NOT**** available for public inspection, that needs an electoral court order with large amounts of evidence of likelyhood of fraud.

                I stand corrected. I could have sworn on previous occasions they've jotted the serial number down directly on the register but watched them more closely today, instead they record your register number on the a list of ballot papers allocated.

    4. Amazon Wageslave
      Big Brother

      Polling station shenanigans

      I'd never experienced that, living in a depressingly safe Labour seat. That was until the last Scottish Parliament election when the SNP candidate cut the Labour majority to 500ish from several thousand. We had a Westminster by-election a year later, and both Labour and SNP threw people at the area, including folk asking for electoral roll numbers on leaving the polling station. I took great pleasure in suggesting they do something biologically implausible.

  3. Parax

    legal Dilemma: I take picture of my vote (not another's) If Police or Staff ask to see it they are asking me to disclose my vote?! ergo prohibited!

    I think staff demanding to delete anything is going to far, they should politely advise as follows:

    "Taking photos/video that may disclose how another person has voted is illegal under Section 66A of the 1983 Representation of the People's Act, If you have taken a photo/video that may disclose another persons vote you are advised to either delete it, or seek immediate legal advice.

    If staff believe you may have contravened the 1983 Representation of the People's Act they may pass your details on to the Police or other regulatory body."

    1. 's water music Silver badge

      I think staff demanding to delete anything is going to far, they should politely advise as follows: [Section 66A of the 1983 Representation of the People's Act]

      That does seem like more sensible approach. One wonders whether a polling station is necessarily a public place and so whether photography could simply be forbidden inside. Maybe they could draw the curtains and ban Blitzlicht on fire safety grounds.

      1. Elmer Phud Silver badge

        And the area around the polling station - like a forecourt or something.

        Those bits are also covered under the act.

        Gawd Noze if the cops are trained in spotting GoogleGlasses

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  6. Quotes
    Stop

    http://content.met.police.uk/Site/photographyadvice

    Officers do not have the power to delete digital images or destroy film at any point during a search. Deletion or destruction may only take place following seizure if there is a lawful power (such as a court order) that permits such deletion or destruction.

    1. JimmyPage Silver badge

      Except

      there are several reported cases where police *have* deleted images on the spot, and faced absolutely no censure whatsoever.

      1. Eclectic Man

        Re: Except

        Thereby destroying the evidence they would have had to rely on in court - or maybe not as there are products which can recover deleted images from storage media, and re-formatted media as long as the original image has not been overwritten.. Even a numtie like me could probably manage that with the software available today and as for the HMRC and Police digital forensics teams, no problem (not to mention people form the definitely not a polo shaped building)..

        I can't help thinking that participating in the democratic process by today's 'Selfie' generation would not be seen as particularly 'hip' or 'cool' or whatever word they use these days, so selfies might not be te problem, low voter turn out much more likely.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Except

        Just because there are bad coppers out there who don't follow the rules, and that there are more bad cops that ignore the other bad cops action, does not mean that all police are bad...

        The problem is, certain laws give the police too much power, and they act out of their own interests and not the publics, such as the copper who asked a mother to stop breastfeeding because he was offended...

      3. moiety

        Re: Except

        It's difficult to prove...even if you have the skills to reclaim deleted photos (a fairly limited percentage of the population - it's easy enough but you have to put some time and effort into research); doing so in an evidence-worthy fashion would be quite involved.

        You could slip the camera into an evidence bag immediately after deletion (and that would be worth doing anyway just for the look on the copper's face); lift fingerprints; and screen video capture the recovery process; but there'd be a gap between deletion and getting back to your workstation which would break the chain of evidence.

    2. Martin-73 Silver badge

      OO thanks for the posting of that. I had it bookmarked (being a keen photographer of infrastructure, power lines, substations and the like it is handy to have reference to) but the buggers changed the URL

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What about surveillance

    The polling station I used at my last address was in a public library and it had signs up all over the place saying CCTV recording was in operation. When I asked the polling station officials about this they said not to worry, nobody was going to check it.

    IANAL: Regarding matching of polling cards to ballot papers: From what I remember about reading the regulations about this some 10 years ago they were very vague about the oversight, seemed to me that there were enough loopholes that decent lawyer could use it to do what ever they wanted.

  8. Longrod_von_Hugendong
    FAIL

    What idiot...

    Would try to do that? Nevermind, just answered my own question... pretty much all of them.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Its very tempting to go in, write a couple of 'choice' words on the volting slip with all this stupidity going on.

    I mean really we are worried about pictures in the voting booths? Nice sense of perspective there when our 'democracy' isnt one as you are now legally forced to register to vote (so not a democracy, as you take part in those by choice not by legal instrument) and what about the widespread corruption with in our government & civil service? Tax laws? oh yes not to mention the stupidly insane police force who think now they have para-military style uniforms & weapons they are somehow judge dredd.

    Once its all sorted I *may* vote, but certainly not until & elgov can get stuffed if they think i'm handing over all the info they plan to request for individual voter registration

    1. h4rm0ny

      >>(so not a democracy, as you take part in those by choice not by legal instrument)

      That's not a definition of democracy. A country can be a democracy and still require electoral registration.

  10. TopOnePercent Silver badge

    "It would depend on exactly what they were taking a photograph of. We have told them to take a note of the names and addresses of anyone doing it. But we would not necessarily call the police."

    Do polling staff have the power to compel disclosure of a persons name and address?

    I realise you'll have given it as part of the process of obtaining your ballot paper, but it doesn't follow that the staff will be able to recall the details as given.

    I'm not for a minute suggesting a polling booth is an appropriate place to take photos, or that taking "selfies" are not an indicator of whether an individual is a self obsessed, attension seeking, and delusional wannabe famous bellend; I leave that up to the reader to decide....

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Like I havent got enough to think about tomorrow....

    I now have to stop numpties taking selfies in the polling booth!!!

  12. Don Jefe

    Good Practice Abused

    What a pain in the ass. I get that tying individuals to their ballot is a fraud prevention measure. It's a good one too. But some people need proof of how they voted to protect their sponsors from fraud. It's obvious that not having proof of a vote is needed for politicians who question the validity of an election, that's why they tie voters and ballots together. Therefore, having proof of a vote is also needed for people who don't question the validity of an election, but just want the other 70% they were promised.

    This is unnecessary regulation plainly intended as punishment for those who want to follow in the footsteps of their politicians and get paid for their patriotism. May as well just use Facebook to vote if this sort of classist crap is what we're headed towards.

  13. ceayers

    secret vote - pull the other one.

    How can the UK Government claim that votes are secret?? - every single ballot as a reference number on it - which is written down in the columns of the book the voting officers hold -

    don't believe me - see for yourself when you vote...

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