Is it safe to vote with a pencil?

23rd Jun 2016

Some campaigners have been urging voters to bring a pen to the polling booth on referendum day to make sure that their vote is not tampered with. We looked into whether or not voters have to use the pencil provided.

It doesn’t matter whether you use a pen or pencil to vote

The guidance given to counting officers in the EU referendum says that each polling station must have "materials to enable voters to mark their ballot papers (in practice, pencils or pens - you may wish to provide a string to attach pencils/pens to the polling booths)".

Staff are also told to “check that the pencils/pens are fixed securely to polling booths”.

You can also bring your own pen or pencil

Voters can also bring their own pen – or pencil for that matter - if they prefer to use that.

This is set out specifically in the Electoral Commission’s news release about the 2015 General Election. "Use the pencil provided in the polling booth to mark their ballot paper. Voters can use their own pen to mark their ballot paper if they prefer”.

Measures are in place to ensure your vote can’t be changed

Ballot boxes are sealed before polling begins. The boxes must legally be constructed so that it is only possible to put ballot papers in. It must not be possible for them to be taken out again until the seal or lock is broken.

Once the polls close the ballot boxes must be packed up, still sealed, and transferred to the count. Only there, in the presences of other officials, can the ballot boxes be opened.

In order to ensure the security of the vote and that no one can tamper with any marks made on ballot papers, there are laws in place as to who can attend the count.

Guidelines issued to counting officers also state that everyone who is entitled to attend must have an “unrestricted view” of what is going on.

We aim for our fact checks to be as accurate and up-to-date as possible. If you think we've made an error or missed some relevant information, please email

Was this page useful to you? Yes No