Types of misinformation you should not fall for during Election Day in the U.K.

Types of misinformation you should not fall for during Election Day in the U.K.

By: christian haag&
May 4 2023

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Types of misinformation you should not fall for during Election Day in the U.K.

Image source: Reuters

False information surrounding elections tends to rise when Election Day approaches, with some narratives returning repeatedly. As part of Logically Facts’ Elections Toolkit, here are a few things to look out for, such as satirical posts or claims of voter fraud.

Does the use of pencils lead to voter fraud?

In the run-up to the EU referendum in 2016, commonly dubbed “Brexit, ”claims were made – primarily from Leave supporters – that people should use pens rather than pencils so no one could later erase that vote and therefore commit voter fraud. This claim echoed the Trump campaign, which, without evidence, claimed that Dominion voting machines were used to commit voter fraud.

When asked by the BBC why pencils are provided in voting booths, and not pens, the Electoral Commission stated that the use of pencils is a result of a combination of tradition, history, and practical reasons. In a statement to the Mirror, the Electoral Commission further explained the practical reasons for using pencils; for example, a voter's ballot paper could be rejected if pen ink were to spill, or smudges could occur on the ballot paper when folded.

While pencils are provided in voting booths, no legislation or other ruling stops anyone from using a pen instead of a pencil. 

How widespread is postal ballot fraud?

The U.K. does not have widespread issues with voter fraud, and actual instances of voter fraud with postal ballots are very rare. After Nigel Farage claimed that postal votes had been “totally abused” in 2019, a Sky News analysis of data on electoral fraud by the Electoral Commission revealed that there were actually very few instances of electoral fraud due to postal votes. 

The 2016 election saw 336 cases of electoral fraud, of which only one conviction was made — none about postal voting. The electoral commission also shows that there have only been 9 convictions for postal vote fraud since 1998. Logically Facts contacted the Electoral Commission concerning the security of postal votes, who reaffirmed that postal votes are safe and the regulations that have been made to reduce the chance of using the system to commit voter fraud: "postal voting is a safe way of voting, and there are security measures in place.”

Exit poll misinformation

When you head to the polling station to vote, sometimes you may find people standing outside and asking voters who they voted for, gathering data for exit polls to form a rough projection of the results. This is not a nefarious plot to influence how you vote. 

Exit polls have been held in the U.K. since 1974 and have become more accurate as the methodology has been improved. It is also important to remember that exit polls indicate the election outcome, not the actual election result. You can read more about exit polls and how they work here.

Different election dates for different parties

A common disinformation claim meant to spread confusion is claiming that the date of an election has been moved or that different party supporters are to vote on different days. In the General Election in 2019, satirical claims circulated on social media stating that due to an increase in politically motivated violence, Tories and Brexiters were to vote at the polling stations on the Friday rather than the Thursday. Remember that the vote is always on the day that has been stated by the Electoral Commission, usually a Thursday.

Keep an eye out for satire

Satire is not misinformation by definition, but it is essential to understand and identify when something is satire and not factual information. 

If you come across such posts and claims on social media, it is important to think critically about the claim

  • What is the claim? 
  • Who is the source of the claim?
  • Is the source reliable?
  • How old is the information?
  • What is the purpose of the claim?  
  • Can the claim be verified?
  • Consider if the claim is reasonable. 

For example, if a post claims that Mr. Buckethead has been appointed Minister of Finance for his knowledge of the price of buckets, and it is claimed by the satirical paper Daily Squib the day before the election, and made to look like an actual press conference, you might want to question if the claim is reasonable. 

You can read our other guides and explanations in the links below:

Elections Kit: How to spot misinformation online for the local elections in the U.K

The new U.K. voter ID rules explained 

Electoral Commission data shows voter fraud is uncommon in the U.K

How to spot misinformation online

(This article was updated on April 24, 2024)

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We rely on information to make meaningful decisions that affect our lives, but the nature of the internet means that misinformation reaches more people faster than ever before