Is it against the law to post your EU referendum vote on Facebook and Twitter?

Uncertainty over what voters can and can't do on social media

Peter Yeung
Thursday 23 June 2016 16:58 BST
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The largest number of voters in history will be eligible to vote in the EU referendum
The largest number of voters in history will be eligible to vote in the EU referendum

The largest number of voters in history are eligible to vote on Britain’s membership of the European Union – a record 46,499,537 people, according to the Electoral Commission.

Such high levels of emotion about a UK political event have been rarely seen in recent years, and social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have been encouraging participation with various "statuses" and the hashtag #iVoted.

But before getting carried away with one of the British public’s biggest decisions in a generation, it is worth checking the law on what you can and can’t do.

Is it against the law?

The 1983 Representation of the People Act states the following:

No person shall, in the case of an election to which this section applies, publish before the poll is closed:

(a) any statement relating to the way in which voters have voted at the election where that statement is (or might reasonably be taken to be) based on information given by voters after they have voted, or

(b) any forecast as to the result of the election which is (or might reasonably be taken to be) based on information so given.

But given the law was enshrined more than three decades ago, it pre-dates the age of Snapchat, Twitter and Facebook.

Fortunately, the Electoral Commission has clarified what people should be able to do on social media during voting days.

All you need to know about the EU referendum

Can I take photos of my ballot?

The commission strongly advises against taking photographs inside a polling station "as you might find yourself in breach of secrecy of the ballot requirements".

Although there is nothing in the law that specifically bans taking photos, your paper’s ID could be revealed, which would compromise privacy.

Under Section 66 of the Act it is a criminal offence to communicate information about how someone has voted.

Anyone who inadvertently reveals how someone else votes could face a £5,000 fine or six months in prison.

The Commission advises it would be better to take a photo outside the polling station to use on social media.

Photos of postal votes are perfectly legal, however, since you won't be in a polling station with them.

What can I share on social media?

Sharing any photos taken in a polling station is strongly discouraged, but you are allowed to say how you voted.

Revealing another person’s vote is prohibited, but retweeting somebody – sharing what they have already said – 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.”

Can you bring a dog?

Before the 2008 London Mayoral election polling staff were told that dogs were allowed to attend the vote alongside owners, as long as they are in an "accompanying" role rather than "free-range".

Photographs of dogs at polling stations, therefore, have become popular under the hashtag #dogsatpollingstations.

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