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Before you pull out your phone to snap a voting selfie, BEWARE! Several states consider taking such a selfie ILLEGAL!

Posted on: November 2nd, 2016 by Lory Sopchak No Comments
Before you pull out your phone to snap a voting selfie, BEWARE! Several states consider taking such a selfie ILLEGAL!

This election year has certainly been one of the craziest election years so far. The debates were hard to watch. The insults, accusations, and overall campaigning seems to me, at least, to be much different than previous elections. However, one positive thing that might come from this election, at least what early voting numbers seem to indicate, is this election, for whatever reason, is going to bring a lot more voters to the booths come election day. With each election, a new “generation” of voters are allowed to cast their ballots in the election. Recently, I saw a story that Justin Timberlake (huge fan) took a selfie while casting his ballot in Memphis, Tennessee. What Justin Timberlake did not realize when he took the voting “selfie” and posted such to social media is that it became illegal to take photos inside polling locations in Tennessee in 2015.

So, in order to honor the upcoming election (without getting political), I decided to dedicate this blog to the different states’ rules on taking pictures while in voting booths. There are several states that allow ballot selfies. For example, in Connecticut, Montana, Vermont and Wyoming, there is no law banning ballot selfies; however, election moderators are allowed to prohibit activity that would threaten the process of voting or privacy of another voter and to adopt measures to preserve order at the polls by suitable means. So, probably would be best to shy away from a group voting selfie in these states.

In Hawaii, a law was recently passed this year which allows voters to share a digital image of one’s own marked ballot. In Indiana, a federal judge last year barred the state from enforcing a new law prohibiting ballot selfies. And just last month, the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston upheld a decision that a ban on voting selfies was unconstitutional, saying it suppresses a large swath of political speech. In both Rhode Island and Utah, new rules have been adopted which allows voters to capture selfies inside polling places so long as they do not show another person’s ballot, which is considered a misdemeanor in Utah.

Even though several states allow voting selfies, there are several states that deem voting day selfies illegal. For example, Alabama makes the practice illegal because voters have a right to cast their ballot in secrecy and in private. In Colorado, ballot selfies of a marked ballot are considered a misdemeanor and a 2016 bill to repeal this ban actually failed. In South Carolina, the law bars voters from allowing their ballots to be seen and in 2012, the state attorney general issued an opinion making it illegal to reproduce a ballot by cellphone, video camera or iPad. Some states, like South Dakota, takes the position that ballot selfies are not allowed because they can be considered influencing a vote or forcing someone to show proof of voting.

Some states have laws that are unclear as to their stance on voting selfies. For example, Arkansas’s laws do not prohibit taking photos while in the polling place as long as it is not disruptive but the state law on sharing voter choices are not clear. Therefore, you might be able to snap a selfie in the polling booth so long as you do not show who you are voting for. In California, the governor recently signed a bill repealing the 125-year old law that barred voters from showing others their marked ballot but the change is not effective until 2-months after this election. However, analysts have found no such occasions of the ban being forced. In Missouri, law prohibits voters from allowing others to see their ballots if the intent is to show how they voted. However, a spokesperson with the secretary of state said that selfies are a “gray area” and to check with local election authorities. Texas bars photography within 100 feet of polling stations so selfies are not allowed but pictures of mail in ballots are okay. West Virginia has a similar law which bans electronic devices inside of voting booths but nothing in the law prohibits photos of mail-in ballots.

I am not sure the stance I should take on this issue. I will say that if your state does not allow a voting selfie, I still encourage each and every person who can vote in this election to vote in this election. It is important to have a voice in a democratic society.  If your state was not included in this summary, check your state’s laws as to whether electronic devices and/or pictures inside of voting booths are allowed. Happy voting!

Information obtained from Associated Press and BBC News