Friday, September 30, 2016

Fight Rages Over Ballot Box Selfies

If these people are taking selfies, they might get in trouble.  
If you're like many Americans, you're proud of voting.

Some of us are so proud that we take selfies of ourselves in the voting booth,  making our selections between candidates. Then we post these photos to social media, natch.

Turns out, such selfies can get you in trouble. They're illegal in a lot of states.

However, maybe not for long, if New Hampshire of all places becomes a trendsetter.

It was illegal to take voting booth selfies in the Granite State. According to Consumerist, the New Hampshire law states:

"No voter shall allow his or her ballot to be seen by any person with the intention of letting it be known how he or she is about to vote or how he or she has voted.

The law was amended in 2014 to include "taking a digital image or photograph of his or her marked ballot and distributing or sharing the image via social media or by any other means.

The New Hampshire attorney general wanted to enforce this law because he figured it could turn into a form of voter intimidation.

But when three New Hampshire voters got in trouble to taking selfies, they sued, and won.

Last year, Consumerist reports, " a U.S. District Court judge said the ban on selfies was an unconstitutional content-based restriction on speech that does not further a compelling government interest."

In other words, there was no evidence that people were using ballot booth selfies to force other people to vote a certain way.

The state appealed, saying, in part, that the selfies were tantamount to campaigning in a voting place, which is a no-no.

But a federal court ruled this week that a voter's First Amendment rights to free speech outweighed any concerns over campaigning.

Restrictions on showing other people your ballot harken back to the old days of corrupt union bosses making sure workers voted the way the bosses wanted them to. They had to show the bosses their ballots, until states passed laws banning the practice.

Where I live in Vermont, voting booth selfies are not explicitly banned, Vermont Public Radio said two years ago. But the law here does ban showing other people your ballot with info on how you voted or intend to vote. That would probably include photographs.

However, VPR says there are no known recent cases of anybody in Vermont  getting in trouble for voting booth selfies.

Laws vary from state to state, so you'd better check your law before you take that selfie just in case.

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