EU referendum: 'Use pens' plea of voting fraud 'conspiracy theorists'

Picture of pencil written word "democracy" being erased Image copyright Twitter/@PenIsBest
Image caption Advocates of #usepens believe voting marks made in pencil could be erased and changed

The debates have been held. The arguments have been aired and on Thursday millions of voters will get to decide if Britain leaves or remains in the European Union.

But some people on social media, seemingly mostly Brexit supporters, suspect that the vote will be anything but fair. They believe that the establishment is not above fixing the vote to thwart the democratic will of the electorate.

The run up to the referendum has seen the rise of the hashtag #usepens which urges people to reject the traditional pencils supplied at polling stations and instead use a pen to mark their cross on the voting paper. The thinking behind this is that it will then be impossible for some unknown hand to use an eraser to rub out your cross and make another mark in the other box.

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The hashtag seems to reflect the sentiment captured in a YouGov poll which suggested 46% of Leave voters thought it likely that the EU referendum would be rigged.

However, some on the other side of the argument in the Remain camp, clearly regard the thinking behind #usepens as an absurd conspiracy theory and that those who advocate it are members of the tin hat brigade.

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Why are you given a pencil to vote?

The theory of pencils marks being erased in any vote is an old concern. BBC Trending spoke to the Electoral Commission to ask why pencils and not pens are issued in the voting booth. In an email it explained that: "the use of a pen or pencil when completing the ballot paper is not specified in legislation. In the UK, pencils are traditionally used for the purposes of marking ballot papers and are made available inside polling stations for voters to use. Having said this, there is nothing to stop a voter from using a pen to mark their vote - there is no legal requirement for ballot papers to be marked with a pencil. Pencils have been used partly for historic and partly for practical reasons."

More information on how to vote on polling day can be found here.

Blog by Anisa Subedar


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