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Election Day: Taking a photo of your ballot paper? It could land you in jail…

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Nov 1, 2021

You can just see the conversation in a jail cell now: “I’m in for murder mate, what about you?”… “Well, I uploaded a selfie in a voting booth.” The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has confirmed that voters must not take photos of their ballot paper on Monday – with severe punishments looming.

DID YOU KNOW? You can’t take photos behind the voting booth or of your ballot paper! But you can take a selfie once you’re outside the voting station.
This is to protect the secrecy of your ballot and that of others. #EveryVoiceTogether pic.twitter.com/eZQ3iKGMGA

— IEC South Africa (@IECSouthAfrica) October 28, 2021

What is the punishment for taking a photo of your ballot paper?

According to the Electoral Act, taking a photo of your vote is a genuine criminal offence. This has become a problem over the last few years, thanks to the rise of the ‘selfie’. People are all too happy to broadcast where they’ve put their ‘X’ on Election Day, but the move could land you with a significant fine – or up to a year in jail!

“Voters are reminded that it is an offence to take and/or publish photographs that reveal a person’s vote on a ballot paper. Upon conviction offenders will be liable to a fine or a term of imprisonment not exceeding one year.”

“While taking a camera or photographic equipment into the voting booth is prohibited, it is not feasible to remove every voter’s cellphone and to return these to voters after they have voted.”

IEC statement via Kate Bapela

How the ‘voting booth selfie’ can be used against people

Meanwhile,  IEC chairman Glen Mashinini briefed South Africa on Sunday night, again raising the issue of amateur photography in the voting booth. He explained that this practice can be used by employees to target workers, encouraging them to prove they have voted a certain way.

Mashinini is hopeful that the secrecy of the voting process will be protected on Monday.

“We are persuading people not to take photos of the marked ballots. This is to protect the secrecy of their votes because that possibility of taking a (picture) of a marked ballot can be used quite nefariously.

“Some employers, especially of domestic workers, would say go vote at the station and come back with proof that you voted in a particular way.”

Glen Mashinini

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