The Dutch are known for their candor. This openness even extends to the ostensibly secret act of voting in national elections. Tweeting selfies while voting became something of a phenomenon during municipal elections in March. When subsequently asked to clarify the law on taking photos in the voting booth, Dutch courts gave it their blessing (link in Dutch), as long as the photo is of your own ballot and not somebody else’s. Today, Dutch voters went to the polls for the European Parliament, and a flood of selfies burst forth. (For many more “stemfies”—a mashup of selfie and the Dutch stemmen (to vote)—follow the #stemfie hashtag.) The UK is also voting in European elections today, but you won’t see many tweets of Brits beaming with their ballots. The country’s election authority warned that voting-booth selfies could endanger the secrecy of the vote, and staff have put up warnings against taking photos inside polling stations. The penalty for revealing someone else’s ballot is a £5,000 ($8,430) fine or six months in prison.
The warning had clearly gotten through in London’s Shoreditch neighborhood, one of more technically savvy—and self-absorbed—places in the country. When I voted there today, staff at the booths said nobody had yet tried to snap a selfie. Today’s election-themed selfies from Britain have mostly featured voters outside of polling stations.
The rules on voting-booth selfies elsewhere in Europe are patchy. Belgium hasexplicitly banned it, threatening a €3,000 ($4,100) fine for offenders. When the rest of Europe votes in the coming days, officials will be forced to take a position on the practice, as voters doing their civic duty face the temptation of public self-documentation. (Elsewhere in the world, South Africa, the Philippines, and some US states have come out against voter selfies.)