This is where I eat my own words a little bit, even though I didn’t actually say them aloud at the time.
Just before the elections there was an article on the BBC website about voters being told not to take selfies while voting.
At the time I thought this was all a bit officious. In theory you could take a picture which could inadvertantly reveal how somebody else voted if your camera was good enough and you could zoom in enough, but its a bit unlikely. My thinking was that it is your right to disclose how you voted, and after all most electoral canvassing is based on people telling you at the doorstep how they vote.
Today I suddenly realised that there is actually a potentially justifiable reason to ban photography of your own ballot paper, even if you fill out a postal one at home.Here goes. If I tell you that I voted for Labour’s Stephen Joyce in the local elections I haven’t actually told you how I voted. I have just told how I said I voted, and there is a difference.
If somebody was being bribed, threatened or co-erced into voting one way or another the briber, threatener or co-ercer would have to take their word for it that they did vote the ‘right’ way – unless they could gain access to the sealed ballot papers and lists of ballot paper numbers, which is not easy or likely.
It would be easy to tell somebody that you voted for them and collect the bribe (or avoid the threat) but to actually vote for somebody else instead, so I guess that banning the means of actually providing proof does remove an incentive for such behaviour.
So, reluctantly, I can see the logic behind it.
Unfortunately that argument could also be used against the whole concept of postal voting, which I generally consider a good thing. In theory, I could offer people a tenner to vote for me but only pay them if they let me see their postal vote before they sealed it.