A 125-year-old Colorado law aimed at discouraging vote swapping for whiskey and pig feet is now at the center of a high-tech freedom of expression case involving cellphone ballot selfies. An attorney for Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey on Wednesday told U.S. District Judge Christine Arguello that Morrissey will not enforce the law despite the fact his office posted a news release on its official website warning people that it is illegal to post ballot selfies in Colorado. “There is no threat of a possible prosecution. …There is no intent by the DA’s office to chill free speech,” Andrew Ringel, Morrissey’s attorney, said in a hearing in U.S. District Court in Denver. But Arguello asked how Morrissey’s Oct. 20 warning that he issued to the media wouldn’t chill free speech.
“I have no problem advising my client to take the press release down,” said Ringel, who added that he had no control over what Morrissey had on his website. “It will probably take another press release saying they will not enforce the statute,” Arguello replied.
The exchange happened after Arguello convened an expedited hearing to issue a restraining order prohibiting enforcement of the voter law passed in 1891. In addition to the lawsuit against Morrissey, a second similar lawsuit was filed against Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams. Arguello expedited the hearing because the election is less than a week away.