You may be proud to cast your votes for particular candidates in Ohio — so proud, in fact, that you decide to take a picture of your ballot and post it on social media before mailing it in. Congratulations, you likely just committed a felony. Under Ohio laws written before anyone ever heard of Facebook and when tweets were associated only with birds, it is illegal to show off how you voted by revealing your completed ballot to someone else. The law says it is a fifth-degree felony for a voter to “allow the elector’s ballot to be seen by another … with the apparent intention of letting it be known how the elector is about to vote.” Another section of law prohibits displaying a marked ballot while in the polling place. “The idea behind it was to keep people from selling their votes,” said Rep. Mike Duffey, R-Worthington. “I think it’s a violation of free speech.”
Duffey said he will introduce a bill today to push the legislature to review those decades-old sections of law with the goal of ensuring that Ohioans don’t face criminal charges for innocent acts. The prohibition against showing your ballot to another voter while at the polling place doesn’t contemplate the ability to display it in real time on social media, Duffey said, and was written before Ohio began no-fault absentee voting.
Duffey talked to the nonpartisan Legislative Service Commission, which, he said, confirmed that the law is vague enough that, theoretically, it could be a crime for spouses to show their absentee ballots to each other.
“It’s largely unenforced,” he said, “but if someone wanted to be a jerk about it, they could prosecute you for it. I don’t think anyone would realistically try it, but do you want that risk out there?”