Why do we use pencils to vote in general elections and are pens allowed?


VOTERS across England will mark their crosses on ballot papers for the general election.

But why do we always use pencils?

It’s tradition for British voters to use pencil to mark ballot papers

Why do we use pencils to vote in UK elections?

It is a tradition in the UK for voters to mark ballot papers with lead pencils, which are supplied in polling booths.

This is the same in local elections, general elections and referendums.

Pencils are preferred for historic and practical reasons.

Ink can smudge, dry out or spill over the paper, which could invalidate a person’s vote.

When the paper is folded over, pen ink might transfer into another box, making it look like the voter has voted more than once.

Some people have questioned whether pencils make fraud more likely.

In theory a voter’s X could be rubbed out and replaced with a vote for another candidate.

At the EU referendum, police were called to a polling station after a voter lent another his pen amid rumours of a conspiracy to erase pencil marks.

The Electoral Commission says measures are in place to stop anyone tampering with ballot papers.

It said: “The use of pencils does not in itself increase the likelihood of electoral fraud.

“Legislation has built specific safeguards into the process, such as the requirement for seals to be attached to ballot boxes at the close of poll.

“By law, campaigners are also entitled to be present at that stage and to attach their own seals if they wish. At the start of the count, they can then observe those same seals being broken.

“Tampering with ballot papers is a serious offence and if anyone has evidence that ballot papers are being tampered with, they should report this to the police.”

Can you use a pen to vote in UK elections?

Yes, you can use a pen if you wish.

Pencils are supplied at the polling station – often attached to a string in each booth.

But there is nothing to stop voters from bringing their own pen.

The important thing is to clearly mark your voting intention on the paper.

How do I cast my vote in the general election?

If you are registered to vote you should have received a polling card in the post that tells you where your nearest polling station is.

Find out who is standing in your area by typing your postcode on the Your Vote Matters website, which will also tell you where to vote.

Polls are open until 10pm.

Carefully check the guidance on how to fill in the ballot paper.

Polling station staff can help if you are unsure, but will only advise on how to vote – not who to vote for.