Manchester voters have been warned against polling booth selfies – with fines of up to £5,000 or six months’ imprisonment for an election day snap.
The global ‘selfie’ phenomenon has now become part of everyday life – but the Electoral Commission is advising voters not to take a quick shot while they make their choice.
The committee said that anyone who inadvertently reveals how someone else votes in today’s local and European elections could face a substantial punishment.
Karim Aziz, a spokesperson for the Electoral Commission, said: “The application of the law is complicated and whether an offence has been committed would depend on a number of factors, including whether the photograph was shared with others and what the photograph showed.
“With this in mind, we advise against allowing photography inside polling stations – this protects voters from inadvertently breaching section 66 and safeguards the integrity of the ballot by preventing someone from exerting pressure on a voter to reveal how they have voted.”
The selfie ban has been enforced under section 66 of the Representation of the People Act (1983), which sets out the secrecy requirements at UK Parliamentary and local elections in England and Wales.
This section states that all provisions need to be enforced to stop a voter’s decision being compromised.
Mr Aziz added: “The law relating to obtaining information in polling stations and disclosing such information is complex.
“Given the risk that someone taking a photo inside a polling station may be in breach of the law, whether intentionally or not, our advice is that you should not allow photos to be taken inside polling stations.”
Laura Clarke, a student from Sale, claimed that she had tried to take a selfie in a polling station but was forced to delete the photo.
The 23-year-old said: “I was in my polling station in Sale and I took a cheeky selfie with my slip and put it in the box. Then a really nice woman came up to me and told me to delete it.
“At first, I was really shocked and quite defensive but then she explained herself and I was more than willing to delete it.
“It seems like an over-the-top sort of thing – but if people need to make sure voting is confidential I completely understand.”
A third of all council seats in the region are up for grabs as well as the North West’s eight European Parliament positions.
Independent body The Law Commission are now reviewing all legislation on the way elections are conducted – including rules about secrecy and whether photography should be allowed with a view to simplifying and updating them.
Polls opened at 7am this morning and are due to be closed at 10pm.
Voters took to Twitter to react to the idea:
I really wanna take an illegal polling booth selfie
— tanzi (@tanziteapot) May 22, 2014
— ben scott (@bjs296) May 22, 2014
MM took to the streets of Piccadilly to discover whether people took a quick selfie.
Mary Jones, 25, a nurse from Beswick, told MM: “When I went to vote today I did see a couple of no photography signs – but I didn’t really think anything of it.
Now I think about it, it makes sense because some people are really secretive about who they are voting for.”
Gary Jennings, 41, an accountant from Salford, said: “I haven’t voted yet and I plan on doing it this evening. I wouldn’t ever dream of taking a selfie at a polling station – but I do think they are quite a fun way of sharing what you are doing with others.”
Alex Eaton, 21, a student from Manchester, said: “I was a little bit nervous as this is the first time I have voted so I didn’t want to do anything wrong.
“I am glad though because taking a public selfie is right up my street and I couldn’t afford to pay a fine and I certainly wouldn’t go to prison.”
Jonathan Stuart, 55, a mechanic, from Ancoats, said: “Why would anyone want to take one of those selfie things in a polling station?
“If they did, they would deserve everything they get.”
Image courtesy of secretlondon123 with thanks