Eager to snap and post an online photo of your Michigan ballot in the Nov. 6 election? Think again. A legal dispute over photos in polling places still hasn’t reached the finish line, more than two years later. A millennial voter from the Kalamazoo area, Joel Crookston, filed a lawsuit deep in the 2016 election season to try to stop Michigan’s ban on taking photos of marked ballots or publicly exposing them. A violation can disqualify a ballot. U.S. District Judge Janet Neff granted an injunction, clearing the way for so-called ballot selfies. But a higher court stepped in and said the sudden change just days before the Trump-Clinton election would be a “recipe for election-day confusion for voters and poll workers alike.”
Oklahoma will not be the latest state to allow voters to take selfies with their ballots, after Gov. Mary Fallin vetoed a bill this week that would’ve legalized the seemingly innocuous, but controversial practice. Fallin, a Republican, declined to sign a bill that would’ve allowed Oklahomans to take photos of their marked ballots, from either an absentee form or a voting booth, and share the images on social media. So-called “ballot selfies” have become increasingly popular over the past several election cycles, but ballot-security experts and elections officials in some states have become increasingly wary of the images’ potential to be abused.
A federal judge on Thursday rejected a constitutional challenge to a New York state law barring voters from taking photographs of their marked ballots, known as “ballot selfies,” so they could post them on social media websites. U.S. District Judge Kevin Castel in Manhattan also upheld the constitutionality of a New York City Board of Elections policy barring photography at city polling places. Rejecting free speech challenges under the First Amendment, Castel said the state law was “narrowly tailored” to help thwart fraud and ensure the integrity of the election process, while the city policy was a reasonable means to limit delays at the ballot box. The judge issued his 41-page decision one month after a two-day, non-jury trial.
Voters in Tennessee got one step closer Thursday to being able to take a selfie inside a voting booth at the next election. The Senate voted 30-0 in favor of a bill that would allow voters to take photos in a voting booth as long as they don’t take a picture of their ballot, use a flash or noise on their phones or take photos of others. The issue gained national attention last year when Justin Timberlake sparked debate over a little-known state law after he shared a selfie on Instagram that showed him casting his ballot at a church in Germantown, near Memphis.
New Hampshire: U.S. Supreme Court declines to review ruling striking down ban on ‘ballot selfies’ | Union Leader
The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to review lower court rulings striking down New Hampshire’s ban on “ballot selfies.” The American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire challenged the state’s ban on “ballot selfies,” a prohibition of a voter taking a photo of their marked ballots and posting on social media to show how they voted, in 2014. Lower courts sided with the ACLU and three voters in the Granite State on the grounds of free speech. The ACLU represented former Rep. Leon H. Rideout, Andrew Langlois, and Brandon D. Ross, in the suit against Secretary of State William Gardner. Rideout said Monday the state was overreacting to new technology and social media. “I’m actually kind of surprised it went this far,” he said.
The ban on so-called ‘ballot selfies’ in Michigan is resurfacing with the introduction of a new proposal that would allow voters to use their cell phones or other cameras to take pictures of their ballots or themselves with their ballots in a polling place. Rep. Steve Johnson, R-Wayland, introduced the proposal which has bi-partisan support in the Legislature. “Around the country, people increasingly are sharing pictures of their ballot as a way to show support for candidates and issues,” Johnson said in a statement, adding that 20 other states currently allow ‘ballot selfies.’
It soon could be legal to post selfies of marked ballots in Alaska. The state House on Wednesday passed legislation, 32-8, that would allow voters to share photos, videos or other images of their marked ballots with the public. They could not, however, show videos or images of their or another person’s marked ballot while in a polling place or within 200 feet of one in an attempt to get someone to vote a certain way. “People have new forms of digital expression whether it’s through social media, Facebook and Twitter or texting photos and Snapchat,” said Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, who co-sponsored the bill, CBS affiliate KTVA reports. Kreiss-Tompkins said that the Division of Elections receives a multitude of phone calls after each election cycle from Alaskans who fear they will be prosecuted for breaking state law because of a picture posted.
Legislators are considering a bill this winter to clarify that someone voting in Alaska can post an online photo with their ballot. That’s currently not allowed under state law. Sitka democratic representative Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins sponsored House bill 7. His legislative intern Alicia Norton testified on the bill’ behalf in front of the House Community and Regional Affairs committee this month. “HB 7 is a ballot selfie bill which would allow a person to take a photo with their marked ballot and post it online,” Norton explained. “It’s currently illegal in Alaska but it’s not a heavily enforced law. And it’s just changing some language.” Kreiss Tomkins’ sponsor statement for the bill says ballot selfies have become a common way to express support for a candidate, a cause, or the act of voting itself.
In Alaska it’s illegal to “exhibit” a picture of a marked ballot. Sharing a ballot selfie isn’t a criminal offense as in some states, but it is technically grounds for invalidating that vote. Now, Alaska may be joining 22 other states who have legalized ballot selfies as a form of political speech. On Oct. 27, 2016, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin expressed her support for presidential candidate Donald Trump by posting a picture of her ballot on Facebook. The picture got 17,000 reactions, 560 shares and 616 comments. It also generated news articles questioning whether Palin had violated state law.
A bill to legalize ballot selfies passed a Colorado House Committee Wednesday evening. House Bill 1014 would allow people to take selfies with their completed ballot and share it on social media, which proponents say would encourage voting and allow the exercise of First Amendment rights. “Believe it or not showing someone your completed ballot and taking a photo of it and posting it on social media is currently a crime in Colorado,” said Democratic Rep. Paul Rosenthal of Denver and Republican Rep. Dave Williams of Colorado Springs. The crime is a misdemeanor with a fine up to $1,000 and up to a year in jail, though no one can recall anyone who has ever been charged with the offense in Colorado. “I know this made sense 100 years when corruption was rampant but it does not make sense today,” Rosenthal said.
New Hampshire: Attorney General seeks high court review of rulings against ‘ballot selfie’ ban | Union Leader
The state Attorney General’s office has officially asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review lower court rulings striking down a New Hampshire ban on “ballot selfies.” The petition for writ of certiorari, filed two days after Christmas, comes as state legislators are considering a bill to reverse the 2014 law that prohibited a voter from taking a photo of their marked ballot and posting it online. The ban is clearly unconstitutional, as the U.S. District Court found in 2015, which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed last September, said Rep. Steve Vaillancourt, R-Manchester, the prime sponsor of the bill to wipe the “ballot selfie” ban off the books.
Missouri could soon join at least 20 other states where it is legal to take a selfie in the voting booth. Two state lawmakers have introduced legislation that would alter Missouri voting rules, paving the way for people to publicly post pictures of themselves and their ballots without fear of prosecution. “Everybody takes selfies of everything,” said Rep. Charlie Davis, R-Webb City. “Why should someone not be able to exercise their First Amendment rights?” Davis has introduced House Bill 315, which eliminates 27 words in the election code that could be used to prosecute people taking selfies after they vote. Rep. Travis Fitzwater, R-Holts Summit, has introduced an identical version of the measure in House Bill 249. The proposals come after an election cycle in which questions were raised about the legality of taking ballot selfies across the nation.
A 2015 law banning ballot box selfies does not violate Tennessee voters’ free speech rights, according to a formal opinion issued by the Tennessee attorney general. But the Memphis lawmaker who sought the opinion says he hopes to overturn the law after legislators reconvene in January. Justin Timberlake sparked debate over the little-known law in October, when he shared a selfie with 39 million-plus Instagram followers that showed him casting his ballot at the New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Germantown, near Memphis. Timberlake, who lives in California but recently bought property near Nashville, said he had no idea he was doing anything illegal.
The law is the law, no selfies allowed at the polls in California. That’s what a US district judge ruled Wednesday, rejecting the American Civil Liberties Union’s request for an injunction lifting the state’s ban on voters taking selfies of their ballot. The ACLU said the more than century-old law banning cameras at the polls violate voters’ freedom of speech. Nope, California voters still won’t be able to take these kinds of selfies at ballots such as this guy in Wisconsin two years ago. But Judge William Alsup took less than two hours to reach his decision, chastising the ACLU for filing a lawsuit Monday in federal court in San Francisco claiming voters’ First Amendment rights are being denied from expressing their political positions — with Election Day less than a week away.
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.
Ballot selfies are currently not allowed in Michigan following a 2-1 decision by a federal appeals court. The decision reverses an earlier one this week from a lower court that said ballot selfies would be allowed, when a judge granted a preliminary injunction of Michigan’s law that banned photographs of voter ballots. “Timing is everything,” the Friday, Oct. 28, order authored by Jeffrey S. Sutton and joined by Ralph B. Guy Jr. states. “Crookston’s motion and complaint raise interesting First Amendment issues, and he will have an opportunity to litigate them in full—after this election.” “With just ten days before the November 2016 election, however, we will not accept his invitation to suddenly alter Michigan’s venerable voting protocols, especially when he could have filed this lawsuit long ago,” the order states.
A trio of New Yorkers are suing the Board of Elections in hopes of making it perfectly legal to snap a selfie in a voting booth — which is a big no-no in the Empire State and elsewhere around the country. The suit, filed Wednesday in Manhattan federal court, argues that “ballot selfies” — or the act of taking a photo with a ballot and then publishing it on social media — should be allowed on election day because they are a valid expression of one’s first amendment rights. “What they want to be able to do is show the photographs to their Facebook friends and Twitter followers,” the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Leo Glickman, told The Post.
Voting is democracy’s most fundamental right and responsibility and recent federal court rulings say you have a constitutional right to post photographs of yourself doing it. More than a dozen states have laws on the books that bar voters from photographing their ballots or even showing their ballot to another person. In the era of camera-equipped smartphones and social media, states have interpreted those laws to prohibit ballot selfies. Some states have gone a step farther and actually passed laws barring voters from posting photos of themselves at their polling stations. But in just the past four weeks, a federal appellate court in Boston and a federal trial judge in East Lansing have found laws prohibiting ballot selfies to violate the First Amendment’s protection of free speech.
A federal appeals court on Wednesday soundly struck down New Hampshire’s ban on ballot selfies concluding it restricted innocent, political speech in the pursuit of what the judges called an “unsubstantiated and hypothetical danger” of vote-buying. A three-judge panel unanimously concluded that the state’s 2014 ban was unconstitutionally over broad. “The ballot selfie prohibition is like burning down the house to roast the pig,” wrote Judge Sandra Lynch in a 22-page decision. The state will now weigh its options, which include appealing this case to the U.S. Supreme Court, Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan said. “We’ll probably have a better idea later Thursday about how we proceed from here,” Scanlan said.
A millennial member of the state Legislature wants to make sure it’s legal for New Jerseyans to snap a photo of their ballot in the voting booth — possibly with their face in the frame — and then post it on social media. State Assemblyman Raj Mukherji has introduced a bill (A4188) that would legalize so-called “ballot selfies.” “It’s not perfectly clear that the current statute would be interpreted to prohibit this,” the 32-year-old Mukherji (D-Hudson) told Politico New Jersey.
New Hampshire: How the ballot selfie went from a New Hampshire voting booth all the way to federal court | Boston Globe
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.
Three federal appeals court judges showed skepticism on Tuesday on how a 2014 New Hampshire law banning voters from taking selfies with their ballots on election day does not violate the U.S. right to free speech. The judges repeatedly asked a New Hampshire official to explain how the law could prevent a replay of scandals that rocked many U.S. states in the late 19th century, when politicians paid for votes, in cash or alcohol. “It’s well known that in the late 1800s, buying votes was a huge problem,” Stephen LaBonte, the state’s associate attorney general, told a three-judge panel of the First Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Boston. “What year is it now?” Judge Sandra Lynch shot back. “In the late 1800s there was a huge problem that obviously didn’t involve ballot-selfies, which did not exist at the time.”
Selfie culture, long debated in the court of public opinion, will make its debut in a federal court of appeals on Tuesday, when a panel of judges is set to appraise a New Hampshire law banning voters from sharing photos of their marked ballots on social media. The case before the First U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston pits longstanding policies favoring ballot secrecy—generally adopted in the U.S. in the 19th century to stanch then-rampant vote buying—against a form of smartphone-enabled expression popular with young voters. Since at least 1979 it has been illegal in New Hampshire for a voter to show his ballot to someone else with the intention of disclosing how he plans to vote. In 2014, state legislators amended the law to include a ban on “taking a digital image or photograph of his or her marked ballot and distributing or sharing the image via social media.” The aim of the law: to guard against hypothetical vote-buying schemes in which ballot selfies serve as proof of performance.
“Dude, check out who I voted for!” We soon could be seeing a lot more selfies with that caption. That’s because legislation legalizing ballot selfies in voting booths landed on California Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk on Friday. Assembly Bill 1494 amends California law that, for now, says “a voter shall not show” a ballot “to any person in such a way as to reveal its contents.” The new law awaiting the governor’s signature says “a voter may voluntarily disclose how he or she voted if that voluntary act does not violate any other law.” The measure passed the state Senate earlier this year and the state Assembly last week on a 63-15 vote. “I see this as a First Amendment issue,” Assemblyman James Gallagher, a Republican representing Yuba City and one of the bill’s sponsors, told colleagues during a floor vote. “All this does is to say that those who want to share how they voted have the right to do so.” Across the US, the law in the 50 states on voting booth selfies is mixed. No federal law addresses the issue, and there’s a smattering of court challenges across the country. Consult these guides from the Huffington Post and the Digital Media Law Project on whether it’s OK to snap a picture of yourself showing your votes on the November 8 presidential ballot.
California: Ballot selfies are illegal, but this Bay Area legislator says they shouldn’t be | Los Angeles Times
Beyonce’s done it, Sean Hannity’s done it, and we all know Kim Kardashian has done it too. Now a Bay Area lawmaker wants all California voters to be able to do it too, without the threat of arrest. That is, take selfies in the voting booth. A new bill sponsored by Assemblyman Marc Levine (D-San Rafael) would legalize so-called “ballot selfies” and allow citizens to share photos of themselves voting on social media. “People are taking pictures of their dogs, they’re taking pictures of their dinner, so let’s take pictures of voting,” Levine said in an interview. “It’s time to make voting cool and ubiquitous, and ballot selfies are a powerful way to do that.”
Wisconsin: ‘Ballot selfie’ by Paul Ryan primary challenger a (technical) violation of state law | Wisconsin State Journal
With voting underway in Wisconsin’s partisan primary election Tuesday, the Republican primary challenger to U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, Paul Nehlen, may have broken state law by tweeting a photo of what appeared to be a marked ballot. State law bars any voter from showing “his or her marked ballot to any person or places a mark upon the ballot so it is identifiable as his or her ballot.” The campaign of Nehlen, a Delavan businessman who is challenging Ryan, may have done just that Tuesday. At 3:18 p.m. Tuesday, Nehlen’s campaign Twitter account posted a photo of what appeared to be a completed ballot with the message: “#HireNehlen Save America #WI01.” Because of the law, a spokesman for the state elections commission, Reid Magney, said it discourages voters from posting these so-called “ballot selfies.”
The state of New Hampshire is appealing a decision that allows voters to take pictures inside voting booths. It would like to join other U.S. states that have banned any voting booth documentation in the form of digital images or photography being shared on social media or otherwise. In other words: No selfies with your ballot. “It’s natural that people — particularly young people who are participating in the democratic process —want to make a record of their specific act of casting a ballot,” John Hardin Young, Chair of the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Election Law, told VOA. “That can include taking a photograph with their phone of the actual ballot face as it’s marked. In a way, we are really at loggerheads. On the one hand, we want everyone to participate. On the other, we do want to make sure that the ballot box remains secret.”
Step 1: Participate in the political process, choose your future leaders, live out your democratic right as an American that countless men and women have literally died for. Step 2: Selfie. To many, there’s no better celebration of democracy than a voting booth photograph. It’s the moment political talk turns to political action, one younger voters are especially eager to record and share with friends. But in several states, the right of free speech has clashed with the question of whether allowing photographs in the voting booth, a typically private space, could compromise elections. Some states, like Pennsylvania, have banned the practice. Last year, a federal court in New Hampshire overturned a ban on such photos, a decision still being appealed.
Sen. Adam Morfeld’s proposal to allow voters to take selfie photos at their voting precincts that display their ballots and how they voted and show the photos on social media bumped into opposition Thursday from the secretary of state’s office. Deputy Secretary of State Neal Erickson told the Legislature’s Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee that it would be “bad public policy” to share photos online that “may well influence how others vote” and cautioned that the practice “could be used by partisan activists.” The broader concern is “preventing fraud at the voting booth,” Erickson said. In response, both Morfeld, a Lincoln senator, and Committee Chairman John Murante of Gretna said people have a constitutional right to express themselves and to attempt to influence how others may vote. “It’s no different than orally encouraging people to vote for candidates you support,” Morfeld said. “Freedom of expression is a protected fundamental constitutional right.”
Nikola Jordan for years has snapped a “ballot selfie” at the polling place and posted it on social media. Even before advanced smartphones and Facebook’s popularity, she’d take a handheld camera into the polling place and pose with her ballot. “I think voting is really exciting and being part of the democratic process is really exciting,” the 32-year-old Omaha woman said. Current state law, however, prohibits sharing a picture of a completed ballot with other people, which could include posting such a photo on Facebook or Instagram. A measure introduced Thursday in the State Legislature would protect ballot selfies by allowing a voter to photograph and share his or her ballot.