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Voting pencil conspiracy theory

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The voting pencil conspiracy theory is a conspiracy theory that using the pencils provided in British polling stations allows the result to be changed by MI5.[1] Promoters of the theory urge people to use pen on the basis that it makes it harder for MI5 to change the vote.[1] The theory originated with "Yes" voters in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum and was widespread among "Leave" voters during the 2016 United Kingdom European Union membership referendum.[1] On Twitter the hashtags #Usepens and #Pencilgate were used to promote the theory.[2][3] Legally, voters are free to use the pencil or bring their own pen.[4] The Electoral Commission states that pencils are offered due to greater reliability and reduced risk of ink being transferred across a folded ballot paper.[5]

The conspiracy theory later spread beyond the UK and featured in the 2022 Australian federal election.[6]


  1. ^ a b c Etehad, Melissa (23 June 2016). "Pencil or pen? An unusual conspiracy theory grips Brexit vote". Washington Post. Retrieved 12 December 2019.
  2. ^ Open access icon Dobreva, Diyana; Grinnell, Daniel; Innes, Martin (6 May 2019). "Prophets and Loss: How "Soft Facts" on Social Media Influenced the Brexit Campaign and Social Reactions to the Murder of Jo Cox MP". Policy & Internet. 12 (2): 144–164. doi:10.1002/poi3.203.
  3. ^ "Keith's mum, pencil plots and other EU referendum day trends". BBC News. 23 June 2016. Retrieved 12 July 2021.
  4. ^ Addley, Esther (23 June 2016). "EU ballot papers: pencils draw conspiracy fears". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 December 2019.
  5. ^ Handbook for polling station staff – Supporting a UK Parliamentary election in Great Britain (PDF). The Electoral Commission. 2024. p. 65.
  6. ^ Graham, Ben (20 April 2022). "Pauline Hanson addresses pencil conspiracy for the 2022 federal election". news.com.au. Retrieved 17 January 2023.