The Electoral Commission has distributed a warning to parties which seems worth distributing widely:
The increased interest in voters taking ‘selfies’ inside voting places is raising concerns about congestion and disturbance in voting places and potential non-compliance with rules in the Electoral Act regarding campaigning on election day and protecting the secrecy of voting.
While the Electoral Commission encourages people to take and share photos of themselves with their ‘I’ve voted’ sticker once they’re outside the voting place and unlikely to interrupt or inconvenience other voters, we have decided to put up ‘No photos inside the voting place’ posters inside all voting places and advance voting places as soon as it can be arranged. A copy of the poster is attached.
Voting Place Managers have to ensure that voting proceeds smoothly, that voters are not impeded, and that order is maintained in voting places. Voting places are for the purpose of voting and people should not remain in the voting place for other purposes.
Publishing anything on election day that could potentially influence another voter is strictly prohibited, and photos taken earlier in the voting period that are shared, re-shared or reposted on election day could fall foul of the Electoral Act.
If a person posts an image of their completed ballot paper on social media on election day or in the three days prior to election day this is likely to be an offence under section 197 of the Act, which carries a potential penalty of a fine not exceeding $20,000. Section 197 of the Act prohibits a range of activities including:
It also potentially exposes the voter’s friends to the risk of breaching the rules if they share, re-share or repost the voter’s ‘selfie’ on election day.
Returning Officers will still be able to give permission to candidates for media or campaign managers to organise filming in voting places. Permission will be given on the condition that there is no filming behind voting screens, no filming of completed or uncompleted voting papers, and no activities that disrupt voting in the voting place.
Where candidates and supporters have already posted images of completed ballot papers we would ask that they take them down. Publishing a photo of a completed ballot paper at this stage of the advance voting period would not appear to be a breach of the Electoral Act 1993. It does however, appear to be contrary to the spirit and purpose of the secrecy provisions and provisions forbidding the distribution of imitation ballot papers.
The Commission would advise parties and candidates to exercise caution when it comes to publishing or distributing material that includes a ballot paper, particularly in a medium where material will continue to be published.