All you need to know about taking pictures at polling stations

In the digital age posting updates about how, when and where you vote are becoming the norm, but sharing too much of the polling station can get you into hot water with election authorities.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon casts her vote in the General Election. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA WireFirst Minister Nicola Sturgeon casts her vote in the General Election. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon casts her vote in the General Election. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

The UK has strict regulations that govern the publishing of voting information before polling stations close.

In the picture above First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is snapped inside her local voting centre casting her vote. While Ms Sturgeon is not breaking any laws, the UK Electoral Commission, frowns on any pictures taken inside official buildings where the ballot takes place.

Inside the polling station

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Fear not selfie fans, it is not illegal to take picture inside the ballot booth, however, it is strongly discouraged by Electoral Commission - the independent body which oversees elections.

The Electoral Commission says it is not aware of anybody being prosecuted over voting day rules on social media, but it is always worth being aware of the rules.

These rules are designed for publishers and media outlets and designed to stop them influencing a vote while it is going on.

But since social media has made it easier than ever before to publish content, individuals have to be careful about what they post online.

An Electoral Commission spokesperson advised: “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, we would advise voters not to take photos inside polling stations.”

The key area of concern is whether the picture violates the secrecy of the ballot by revealing someone else’s vote. If you snapped someone else’s ballot by accident, the photo could be construed as an attempt to gain information about a vote.

In the 2014 European elections, police warned that those found sharing a photo of a ballot paper could be prosecuted under the 1983 Act, which allows for a prison term of up to six months or a fine of up to £5,000.

Are dogs allowed at the polling station?

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The Twitter trend #dogsatpollingstations has taken off as Brits share pictures of their pooches waiting for them to do their democratic duty.

According to the Electoral Commission, dogs can enter polling stations in an “accompanying role”, but must be kept on a lead.

Sadly, they’re still unable to vote.

Can you share your vote?

Although the 1983 Representation of the People Act, says publishing “any statement relating to the way in which voters have voted” is prohibited, the Electoral Commission says posting how you voted or intends to vote is permitted. According to the commission, “A voter may volunteer information about how they voted, provided no undue influence is exerted on them to do so.”

Revealing another person’s vote though is a big no-no.
Tweeting or posting someone else’s vote on Facebook – is not allowed, although an Electoral Commission spokesman said sharing somebody else’s post, such as retweeting them, is not prohibited.

So when it comes to election selfies, if you must take one, play it safe and take it outside.