A federal appeals court in Boston will hear arguments Tuesday on a case that junctures the contentious issues of free speech, the integrity of the voting process, and selfies. Yes, selfies—specifically, so-called ballot selfies. The state of New Hampshire is appealing a ruling last year that struck down the state’s law explicitly banning voters from taking and posting photos with or of their ballots. The law, which carries a fine up to $1,000 for violators, went into effect shortly before New Hampshire’s 2014 state primary. The act intended to protect against vote buying in the digital age; what it got was widespread protest and a two-year legal saga. Leon Rideout knew what he was doing. “It was sort of a protest photo,” the Republican state representative from Lancaster said in an interview.
According to Rideout, most people “had no idea” about the the law, which was passed just three months before his now somewhat-infamous photo. The original bill—which passed easily in the state House and Senate—was intended to update a law against voters publicizing their ballot for the internet age.
Rep. Timothy Horrigan, the bill’s sponsor, testified during a Senate committee hearing that posting ballot photos on social media “compromises the security of the polling place and the secrecy of the ballot.”
According to a court filing, Horrigan explained the “main reason” for the bill was “to prevent situations where a voter could be coerced into posting proof that he or she voted a particular way.”