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Nov 03 2016

Think Before You Shoot! Ballot Selfies May Be Illegal in Your State

As someone who is not quite a Baby Boomer and definitely not a Millennial I’m ambivalent about selfies. I get why they’re popular but sometimes I think folks are just a little too obsessed with documenting every meal, sunny day, rainy day etc in their lives by taking a picture of themselves “in the moment.” And of course, what could be more reflective of our society than the need to prove you voted by taking a selfie. I get it, especially in this most-divisive of elections. There can hardly be a more pure expression of your First Amendment right to free speech than to say “I voted”

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But 20 states (including New York) have laws that directly prohibit taking a picture of a marked ballot and some even make it illegal to take any picture in a polling place.Some of those states do allow pictures of absentee or mailed-in ballots. The ACLU recently lost a challenge to a California law that banned pictures of marked ballots. They decided not to appeal right now as the election is too soon to have a court rule in time so for now the ban stands (though it is rarely enforced). The prohibition on taking picture of ballots or of marked ballots started almost as soon as photography itself was invented. Most of these laws are over 120 years old. The reason they were put in place in the first place was to prevent voter intimidation. Local political leaders and goons could force their underlings or local residents to prove who they voted for or that they voted at all by requiring proof in the form of a photograph of their marked ballot or at the polling place. So laws were passed to render such conduct illegal and preserve the privacy of the ballot box. Opponents say those days are long gone and that in today’s digital world the selfie is too valuable a form of free expression to be denied. As in California, most states that have bans don’t even enforce them. The Associated Press has compiled information on all 50 states on this issue which I have compiled in a chart:

STATELEGAL, ILLEGAL OR
MIXED
COMMENT
ALABAMAILLEGAL
ALASKAILLEGAL
ARIZONAMIXEDBars photography within 75 feet of polling places. But the Legislature changed the law that barred showing photos of completed ballots in 2015 to allow posting of early ballots on social media.
ARKANSASLEGALNothing in state law prohibits taking photos while in a polling place as long as it’s not disruptive or being used for electioneering purposes,
CALIFORNIAILLEGALBill pending to make it legal
COLORADOILLEGALAttempt to repeal it in 2016 failed
CONNECTICUTLEGAL
DELAWAREMIXEDPolicy against cellphones in voting booths
FLORIDAILLEGAL
GEORGIAILLEGAL
HAWAIILEGALA law passed this year allows voters to share a digital image of one’s own marked ballot.
IDAHOLEGAL
ILLINOISILLEGAL
INDIANALEGALA federal judge last year barred the state from enforcing a new law prohibiting ballot selfies.
IOWAILLEGALPhotos of absentee ballots are OK.
KANSASILLEGAL
KENTUCKYLEGALSecretary of State spokesman Bradford Queen says state law does not allow people to record the likeness of a voter, but the law does not say whether voters can record their own likeness. Therefore, the secretary of state’s office routinely tells county clerks the law does not prohibit ballot selfies.
LOUISIANALEGAL
MAINELEGAL
MARYLANDILLEGALPhotos of mailed ballots are OK.
MASSACHUSETTSILLEGAL
MICHIGANLEGALA federal judge on Monday blocked enforcement of a ban on ballot selfies, saying it violates free speech. Lawyers for Secretary of State Ruth Johnson predicted "chaos" at polling places and asked the judge to consider freezing her order while they pursue an appeal in a higher court.
MINNESOTALEGAL
MISSISSIPPIILLEGAL
MISSOURIMIXEDLaw prohibits voters from allowing others to see their ballots if the intent is to show how they voted.
MONTANALEGAL
NEBRASKALEGAL
NEVADAILLEGAL
NEW HAMPSHIRELEGALFederal Court last month ruled it was free speech
NEW JERSEYILLEGAL
NEW MEXICOILLEGAL
NEW YORKILLEGAL
NORTH CAROLINAILLEGAL
NORTH DAKOTALEGAL
OHIOILLEGAL
OKLAHOMAMIXEDThere is a law against it but the law states no penalty for violating it
OREGONLEGAL
PENNSYLVANIAMIXEDLaw prohibits someone from revealing their ballot "letting it be known how" they’re "about to vote." But officials recently released guidance on electronic items in polling places that noted the recent court cases that "found a First Amendment right to take ’ballot selfies.’"
RHODE ISLANDLEGAL
SOUTH CAROLINAILLEGAL
SOUTH DAKOTAILLEGAL
TENNESSEEILLEGALPhotos of mail-in ballots OK
TEXASILLEGALPhotos of mail-in ballots is legal
UTAHLEGAL
VERMONTLEGAL
VIRGINIALEGAL
WASHINGTONLEGAL
WEST VIRGINIAILLEGALMail-in pictures OK
WISCONSINILLEGAL
WYOMINGLEGAL

1 comment

  1. Donald Duck

    Yes, this was my great concern when in the “voting booth.” How much time I would get for taking a selfie. Not that it appeared that one of the candidates of a major party was a reality TV clown.

    And, yes, I suspect it’s well within the constitutional powers of the Executive branch to bar whatever non-citizens it deems in the interest of national security. Though everything out of his mouth is contradicted two seconds later so I suspect this “mere suggestion” will be negotiated down by the Deal Maker in Chief as some form of enhanced vetting that “makes us safer.” I say appear because I would hope and suspect the govt. already vets people with extreme interest.

    Who knows. We’re in the abyss now. Thanks to rubes like I suspect that Chan poster guy of the Trump U thread that thought going to “Trump U” was the way to real estate investing nirvana.

    I’m embarrassed that certain groups of my fellow citizens may currently be in fear of our very government. It’s disgusting. The POTUS-elect needs to tamp down on the crazy talk and start acting Presidential or even the rubes like Chan I suspect will soon turn on him.

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