In an era where many Americans like to take pictures and share with friends, many voters might not think much about sharing a photo with their ballot on Election Day.
States have passed various laws, and depending on how these laws are interpreted, posting a photo with your ballot could be a crime in some places. But whether anyone would actually be charged remains in question.
According to the National Association of State Legislatures, a 2016 federal court ruling struck down a New Hampshire ban on ballot selfies.
The state argued that the law was necessary to prevent ballot photography from being used as a means of voter fraud or intimidation. The plaintiffs argued that prohibiting ballot photography denied voters their free speech rights.
A federal appeals court ruled 3-0 that the state had not shown that it used the least restrictive means to achieve a compelling state interest in prohibiting voting fraud. According to the ruling, New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner could not show examples of how ballot photography led to voting fraud.
“The restriction affects voters who are engaged in core political speech, an area highly protected by the First Amendment,” the ruling states. “There is an increased use of social media and ballot selfies in particular in service of political speech by voters. A ban on ballot selfies would suppress a large swath of political speech.”
Indiana also passed a law in 2015 that would have made ballot selfies a felony. It too was shot down by a federal judge.
In 2019, Michigan officials changed the rules to allow a person to take a photo of their ballot as long as they were not taking selfies of themselves, either in the voting booth or anywhere within the area where people are voting, taking any other type of photograph within the area where people are voting, or sharing images of a voted ballot within 100 feet from the polling place — the buffer zone where electioneering is prohibited.
Instead of ballot selfies, the National Association of State Legislatures encourages election officials to engage voters by offering voting stickers or creating photo kiosks.
For more information on local ballot selfie laws, click here.
By Justin Boggs, Scripps National.