Ballot selfies are not a crime, according to Virginia Attorney General Mark. R. Herring. In a formal opinion last month, Herring said it’s not against the law for Virginia voters to use a cellphone inside a polling place to take photos or video of their own ballot for publication on Instagram, Snapchat or Facebook, as long as it doesn’t interfere with other voters or disrupt the election. Some states ban photography in polling places. Where it’s not outright illegal, many election organizers consider the use of cellphones to be taboo, given the private nature of voting and the need for an orderly process. But as cellphones and social media become more ubiquitous, bans on ballot photos have started to loosen. Last week, a federal appeals court ruled that a New Hampshire law prohibiting voters from posting photos of completed ballots online infringed on free speech.
The rules in Virginia have been somewhat unclear. In June, the State Board of Elections approved new regulatory language that eased restrictions on electronic devices, prompting two local-level election officials to ask Herring to clarify whether the revised rules conflict with state law.
The change was pitched as a policy modernization to keep up with technological and social change, but it was opposed by several election officials worried it could cause problems on Election Day.