Monday, 23 November 2015

Ballot snapshots

It made me really happy a few years ago when a student emailed me a picture of his completed ballot. Rather than tick the box for one of the parties, he'd written in his preference for that Gordon Tullock be elected. I knew that I'd done my job well.

It's maybe illegal to take a picture of your ballot. The Electoral Commission warns against it, but Graeme Edgeler's pretty sure it isn't illegal.
However, electoral law expert Graeme Edgeler said sharing a photo of a completed voting paper was unlikely to be illegal, as the commission's rules were intended to prevent people from mistakenly using a false ballot.

"The Electoral Commission might think it's against the spirit of the law...but the spirit of the law doesn't create a criminal offence.

"They might frown on people doing this, but I can't see a problem: it's part of the democratic process really, you vote how you want and if you want to shout from the rooftops, you can."

An Electoral Commission spokeswoman said any complaints about photos of completed voting papers would be assessed on a case by case basis.
The only good reason I can see for banning photos of a ballot is to prevent vote-selling. Suppose I offer you a dollar to vote for my preferred candidate. You can take my dollar, but I have no way of knowing whether you held up your side of the deal. But taking a picture from inside the booth with your ticked ballot provides the proof.

Now this matters less with the postal flag ballot: I could just pay you the dollar for the blank form, fill it in myself, and mail it. But it would still be easier for me to offer a dollar to anybody who tweets a picture of their completed ballot ranking the monkey-butt flag in first place.*

If you think selling votes is a bad thing, then you might want to support the continued ban on taking pictures of the ballot - unless it's a write-in ballot for Gordon Tullock. Those should always be allowed.

 * I do not care enough about flags to actually be making this offer. Are there really people who care enough about flags that they'd be willing to pay for an extra few votes for their preferred option?

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