Social Media, Advance Votes and the Law

Advance voting opened today. This means that if you can’t get to a polling booth on election day, you are able to vote from today. It also means that there are now downloadable voting papers for all seats available online. This has resulted in a number of parties and candidates, and I suspect average voters, putting images of their papers on social media.




This raised the question from Andrew Chen:


Thankfully Lamia pointed me at this:

8.4 Imitation voting papers

Do not print or distribute, on election day or after midnight on the Tuesday before election day (Tuesday 16 September 2014), anything which imitates a ballot paper (or part of a ballot paper) to be used at the election and which contains any direction or matter likely to influence a voter. Do not print or distribute on election day any card or paper showing the candidates or parties even if it is not an imitation of a ballot paper.

In the past the issue has arisen as to whether election advertising in newspapers offends the legislative provision against imitation ballot papers. Whilst each case depends on its facts the use in an advertisement of a tick against a party name or candidate name does not, of itself, offend the provision.

The rules about imitation voting papers precede the availability of technology that so readily enables a voter to take a photo of their voting paper in a voting place and then upload the image. The Commission’s view is that it is arguable that publishing an image of the voting paper is publishing an imitation voting paper. Imitation can mean both a copy and a counterfeit. Accordingly, the Commission advises candidates, parties and their supporters not to publish a photo of a completed voting paper online. Nor should any person publish a photo of an uncompleted voting paper together with any other information likely to influence any vote.


But even that is not clear. So after checking with the Electoral Commission, it appears that in their view, posting images of completed voting papers BEFORE midnight on the Tuesday before an election is ok legally, but they do also feel that it may breach the spirit of the law and the importance of the secret ballot. So it looks like it is ok for the Young Nats and Trevor Mallard to post those images at this point in time.