Paranoid referendum voters have been using their own pens at polling stations after wild warnings that pencil-written ballot papers may be erased as part of an MI5 conspiracy to remain in the EU.

The #usepens hashtag, which first emerged during the General Election, has been trending again on Twitter.

However, there were confused scenes on Thursday as a council warned ink may smudge votes, rendering them void.

The MI5 theory emerged after a YouGov poll asked people about "some things that people have said about the EU referendum campaign", including "it is likely that the EU referendum will be rigged".


Almost half - 46 per cent - of all Leave voters said this is the case, with some 28 per cent of Leave backers suspecting pro-EU involvement of the secret services.

On June 20, voter Kenneth Priestley made a Freedom of Information request on, asking why the pencils aren't replaced with black pens to avoid potential fraud.

Jordan Lawrence, representing the Electoral Commission, responded: "Pencils have been used partly for historic and partly for practical reasons."

Though pencils are provided within polling stations, there is no legal obligation to vote with them and using your own pen will mean ballot papers will still be counted.

The Electoral Reform Society echoed the warning, telling a voter on Twitter that "you can bring your own pen/marker/sharpie".

Voting rules are relatively relaxed and mean that people can theoretically vote with a tick rather than a cross if they wanted to.

Others have suggested that people should press extra hard when drawing their cross to ensure that it is still visible even if it is erased.

Ahead of a June 23 referendum on European Union membership, many of London's leading lights are deeply worried about its future. Since almost exactly 30 years ago, when Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher liberalised finance through a package of reforms so dramatic it was dubbed the Big Bang, London has become the undisputed financial capital of a united Europe - a status that now hangs in the balance.

The Electoral Commission has welcomed people bringing a pen and said that observers watch counts to ensure that they are kept secure.

"By tradition, pencils are available in polling booths for voters to mark their ballot papers," a spokesperson said. "If a voter wishes to bring their own pen and use that, it's fine."

A video posted on one woman's Facebook page shows a policewoman taking down notes after she apparently offered her pen to voters.

The police where called because I offered my pen to voters. This is the police woman they sent

Posted by Jakki Bowers on Thursday, 23 June 2016

"I'm lending a pen...I have never told them or asked them which way they are voting," Jacqui Jackson said.

"I was asked to come here and hold dogs today and offer people the use of a pen."

- Additional reporting: NZ Herald