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General Election 2017: Rules on what you can and can't do at the polling stations

Can you take a selfie, and can you tweet about your vote? Read the rules

polling station
Ainhoa Barcelona
Content Managing Editor
8 June 2017
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Can you play music at the polling station, take a selfie while you vote, or draw smiley faces on your ballot paper? Millions of people are casting their vote for the next Prime Minister on Thursday 8 June, and while most members of the public are familiar with the process, some issues, such as the above, have been raised. Read on for the do's and don'ts of polling station etiquette…

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Can I tweet about voting?

Yes and no. You are free to publicise your vote on social media, as many members of the public and celebrities have done, however the Electoral Commission warns against tweeting while inside a polling station. It is also illegal to reveal someone else's vote.

Can I discuss the candidates with other people?

No. Voters are banned from discussing the merits of candidates or parties inside a polling station. If you want to engage in a debate, you must do so outside. You are also not allowed to ask other people who they are voting for as this will compromise the secrecy of the poll.

Can I bring my pet?

Yes. The Electoral Commission advises voters not to bring their dogs to the polling station, unless they're a guide dog, but if they do, they may have to be left outside. The hashtag '#dogsatpollingstations' has trended on Twitter for the last couple of nationwide votes, and with a new general election comes a new legion of very good dogs who have faithfully accompanied their owners to the polling stations. There is no guidance on other animals such as rabbits, ferrets or pot-bellied pigs, so any decision will be at the discretion of presiding officers.

Can I play music?

Yes, but only if it doesn't disrupt others. The same goes for loud mobile phone conversations.

Can I wear political clothing and rosettes?

No. Voters dressed in party T-shirts will not be able to enter a polling station, as it may intimidate others. They are also not permitted to wear a rosette; only candidates are allowed to do so, and the rosettes must be plain and not bear a slogan. Can I take a selfie? Yes and no. Technically, there's nothing in the law that bans people from taking photographs but it is very strongly discouraged. A selfie or photo could accidentally reveal how someone voted – which is illegal and can land you in hot water, a la Justin Timberlake. The Electoral Commission says: "Due to the potential breach of the law, intentionally or not, we strongly advise against any form of photography taken inside a polling station. However, if a voter would like to highlight their participation in the elections, we suggest this is done outside the polling station before or after they vote." Consequently, you will see "no photography" signs inside many polling stations.

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Can I have a new ballot paper if I make a mistake?

Yes, but only if you haven't already posted your ballot paper in the box. Tell polling staff what has happened and they'll be able to cancel your ballot paper and issue you with a new one. You are also allowed to use your own pen, instead of the pencils provided.

Can I put a tick or a smiley face in the box, instead of a cross?

Yes. The Electoral Commission recommends placing a cross in the box, but as long as you've shown your clear preference for a candidate – via a tick or even a smiley face – the vote "must not be rejected if the voter's intention is clear".

Can I sign my ballot paper?

Yes and no. People occasionally sign their ballots but if your name is easily identifiable, your vote will not count as it breaches the rules of a secret ballot.

Can I leave a message for the politicians?

Yes and no. You can, but any comments in the margin may confuse counters and lead to your vote being rejected. If there is no candidate you'd like to vote for, writing "None of the above" is recommended.

Can my child mark the X for me?

No. Children are not allowed to write on the ballots, but they can accompany their parents or guardians to the polling station.

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