Why do we vote using pencils in general elections?

12 December 2019, 13:23 | Updated: 12 December 2019, 13:44

Why do we vote using pencils instead of pens in general elections?
Why do we vote using pencils instead of pens in general elections? Picture: Pixabay

Voters are generally given pencils to mark their ballot paper - but why?

Voters across the country will mark their ballot paper with a cross.

To do this, they'll most likely be handed a pencil.

But why?

A spokesperson for the Electoral Commission told LBC: "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."

They added: "The use of pencils does not in itself increase the likelihood of electoral fraud: while pencil marks can be rubbed out, similarly, pen marks can be crossed out.

'What is key is that the integrity of the process from the point that a voter marks their ballot paper to the declaration of the result is maintained.

"To this end, the 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, candidates and agents 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. Voters can of course bring a pen to mark their vote if they prefer."