The Vote on Ballot Selfies

The Vote on Ballot Selfies

Across the country, early voters are casting their ballots and breaking records. Many are not only taking part in the democratic process, they’re also taking photos of their ballots or selfies in their booth — and possibly facing legal action.

According to a PBS Newshour report, nationwide, laws are mixed on whether voters can take and share these photos on social media. For example, in 18 states it’s illegal to take a photo of your ballot, and violating the law can mean fines or even jail time. In 6 other states, while polling place photos are illegal, taking a photo of a mail-in ballot is not. Federal judges have struck down selfie bans in New Hampshire and Indiana, and states like California and Rhode Island have changed their rules.

More specifically, the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston upheld a decision in New Hampshire that called the ban on ballot selfies unconstitutional. The court ruled that “it suppressed a large swath of political speech and there was no evidence to support the state’s concerns.”

Such a ban “goes against the core of democracy,” added Gilles Bissonnette, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire. The ACLU filed the suit on behalf of three individuals who were being investigated for violating the statute.

Snapchat has also filed briefs that support ballot selfies. Their argument, and the argument of others, is that the older laws aren’t applicable to the modern times and technology. For many, taking a selfie while voting is a way to express and share their political views. And this is just what Justin Timberlake recently did, but he should have done so in California.

The celebrity chose to vote in his hometown of Memphis, Tenn, and snapped a selfie in the process. According to CNN, it was just last year that the state’s governor, Bill Haslam, signed a bill that allows the use of cell phones for “informational purposes” at polling places but bans the taking photos or video. While earlier reports indicated that Timberlake was facing a $50 fine and/or 30 days in jail for violating the Tennessee law, the Shelby County District Attorney released a statement correcting the earlier one, which was apparently raised in error, and stated, “No one in our office is currently investigating this matter nor will we be using our limited resources to do so.” So, JT’s off the hook.

Law or no law, as early voting continues and on November 8, we can expect many more selfies to be cast to social media.

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