Peterborough by-election: ‘Concern’ over voters taking photographs at polling booths

An election observation group has raised ‘concerns’ after claiming to have witnessed voters taking photographs in polling booths during today’s by-election in Peterborough.

Thursday, 6th June 2019, 11:31 pm
A polling station at City College Peterborough

Democracy Volunteers, which conducted observations throughout the city today (Thursday, June 6), said it had “identified an emerging concern in the frequency in which individuals were observed to be photographing their completed ballot papers, which in each case went either unnoticed or unchallenged by staff.”

It added: “Whilst the observer team did not see this in every station it was clear that photographing a ballot, presumably for transmission, was a normalised activity, even though polling stations clearly displayed signs stating that photography is forbidden in polling stations. This photography did not take the form of so-called ‘selfies’ but of simply a ballot being photographed by the voter.”

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A polling station at City College Peterborough

Democracy Volunteers, which described itself as the UK’s leading election observation group, also stated that it had it had witnessed so-called ‘family voting’ - whereby individuals lose their right to cast their vote in secret - in 50 per cent of all polling stations.

It said: “Despite the high prevalence of family voting, the extent to which this was challenged by polling station staff was highly commendable, regular and sometimes even persistent.

“It was clear that staff had received training about the negative impact of family voting and how to intervene when necessary.

“The returning officer had also clearly coordinated with the local police to ensure that some polling stations were also permanently or regularly attended to encourage the correct voting procedures which were often challenged by voters, who were often unaware that this is an ‘unacceptable practice’.”

Overall, the group said it was “extremely impressed with the organisation and administration of polling stations throughout the day by polling staff”.

Director of Democracy Volunteers Dr John Ault said: “Today saw an excellently run polling day by staff and we want to congratulate them for this. However, we would like to draw attention to the concerning practice of voters taking photos of their ballot for dissemination, which is clearly a breach of the secret ballot.”

Peterborough City Council has been approached for comment.