It started out as a seemingly harmless act: voters posting photos of their completed ballots on the Internet. One wrote in his deceased dog’s name for senator because he didn’t like any of the candidates, then shared his message of frustration on Facebook. A state legislator, and another a candidate for the state House, also publicly published photos of their ballots. Now they’re under investigation by the New Hampshire attorney general’s office. The reason? It turns out the act of photographing or sharing a marked ballot is illegal under state law — and in 43 other states.
A “ballot selfie” risks a felony charge — and a $1,000 fine — in New Hampshire, where photographic images of ballots are banned in an attempt to deter vote buying and uphold the sanctity of the secret ballot. The rationale behind the law is that if a vote cannot be proved, it cannot be purchased.
New Hampshire’s law isn’t just an awkward vestige from the past: The state actually updated the law this year to explicitly ban “taking a digital image or photograph of his or her ballot and distributing or sharing the image via social media or by any other means.”