A 2015 law banning ballot box selfies does not violate Tennessee voters’ free speech rights, according to a formal opinion issued by the Tennessee attorney general. But the Memphis lawmaker who sought the opinion says he hopes to overturn the law after legislators reconvene in January. Justin Timberlake sparked debate over the little-known law in October, when he shared a selfie with 39 million-plus Instagram followers that showed him casting his ballot at the New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Germantown, near Memphis. Timberlake, who lives in California but recently bought property near Nashville, said he had no idea he was doing anything illegal.
The law, which makes it a misdemeanor punishable by a $50 fine or up to 30 days in jail and makes it a crime to shoot images inside a voting booth, does not violate the right to freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment because it provides reasonable regulations designed to ensure the privacy of a ballot, promote speed and efficiency of the voting process and prevent disruption and distraction for voters, including voter intimidation, the attorney general concluded.
A polling place is not a public forum; it is a space for voters to privately cast a ballot, the Dec. 22 opinion said. Any regulation of free speech in a nonpublic forum is constitutional as long as it reasonably relates to a legitimate government interest. Banning videos or photos in the polling booth meets that standard, the opinion concluded.
Full Article: Attorney general: Ballot box selfie ban constitutional.