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Pokémon Go banned at SA voting stations

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Pokémon Go players must give it a rest while they vote next week, says the Independent Electoral Commission.
Pokémon Go players must give it a rest while they vote next week, says the Independent Electoral Commission.

In the approach to South Africa's local municipal elections on 3 August, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) told TimesLive that voters will not be allowed to play Pokémon Go at voting stations.

The IEC has also banned taking selfies or other photos featuring marked ballots, TimesLive reported, quoting an IEC officer who said the practice is "illegal because it compromises the secrecy of the ballot".

While it is unclear why the IEC has banned Pokémon Go at voting stations, it is apparent the game can be used to encourage civic participation in elections.

In the run-up to the USA's presidential elections in November, campaigners for Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton have been using Pok'estops - real-world locations at which Pokémon Go players can pick up needed supplies for the game - to register voters by setting up voter registration stations at the stops.

Creating registration or voting stations which correspond with Pok'estops and setting lures (which attract Pokémon and the players looking to catch them) at these stops could be a way of encouraging citizens to register to vote, and registered voters to turn up on election day.

Several businesses have reported spikes in foot traffic and sales when they set lures on or close to their premises.

"I don't know who created Pokémon Go, but I'm trying to figure out how we'd get them to have 'Pokémon Go-to-the-polls'," said Clinton at a rally on Thursday.

Rival presidential candidate Donald Trump has attempted to use Pokémon Go tropes for propaganda, by releasing a video parody of the game, in which the player catches a Pokémon called "Crooked Hillary".

Trump's appropriation of the game may backfire, however, as users are typically excited to catch Pokémon, which they tend to cherish rather than abhor.

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