Responsible selfie guidelines for Election Day 2014

On Wednesday (the 7th of May 2014) millions of South Africans will be heading to polling stations to vote in our country’s 5th democratic election.  Because we live in a digital age where almost every cell phone has a camera nowadays, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has appealed to voters to respect the privacy and secrecy of their vote.

Voters are requested to refrain from taking pictures in the ballot booth and of their marked ballot papers. The popularity of selfies (or self-portrait photographs) which are typically taken with a hand-held digital cameras or camera phones along with a few social media campaigns promoting voting selfies has increased the risk of undermining the secrecy of the vote.


Following voting by South Africans abroad last week, a number of photographs appeared on social media in which voters had photographed their marked ballot papers. The IEC strongly supports voters expressing their support for democracy and the elections through social media and selfies but these should be within the law. Voters may take photographs of themselves outside the voting station and of their inked thumbs to show their participation, but are reminded that it is an offence to take and/or publish photographs, which 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 cell phone and to return these to voters after they have voted.

For this reason the IEC is asking voters to respect the law and the fundamental right of secrecy which underpins the democratic system. So, if you’re going to be voting on Wednesday, switch off your phone when you’re entering the ballot booth and try not get fined or prosecuted.

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