In a few weeks, voters in the UK will go to the polls in a general election. A sizeable minority might be inclined to take a selfie at the polling booth. Will they be committing a crime? The only way to be sure is to have free and open access to the relevant legislation, something which is far from a given around the world. Our new grant to the Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP) in Nigeria is trying to open up legislative information in Nigeria so that people are aware of their rights and duties under the law.
Access to legal information (judgements, directives, legislation etc) is a crucial aspect of a functional, accountable democracy. Ensuring access to this information, however, is not straightforward. In a legal system such as Nigeria there are several sources of law, while each state has its own legislation too. What’s more, that law is in a constant state of flux, with new legislation being added, old laws repealed and new judgements being published all the time. Working with a range of partners (academic, judicial, NGOs), LEDAP are building an online system that will give people access to the bulk of Nigeria’s legal information. Already, their prototype site has a number of pieces of legal information available and our grant will allow them to employ staff to manage the project, collect and publish legislation and cover additional relevant costs.
Now, back to the selfie in a polling station. Well, it’s not illegal per se, but it certainly could be. Under section 66 of the Representation of the People Act (1983) it is an offence to reveal how someone else has voted or to obtain or reveal the unique number on the back of a ballot paper. So if you accidentally catch Mrs Jones in the background of your selfie ticking the box of her preferred candidate and then post it on Twitter, you could expect a call from the police. Of course, it’s only by having access to that piece of legislation that you can know for certain whether or not you’re breaking the law!
The image accompanying this post is courtesy of Woody Hibbard (CC BY 2.0). Original here.