Government & Politics

Federal court rules you should be able to take ballot selfies

Larry and Jeri Kennison walk past voting booths after marking their ballots in Middlesex, Vt. on Aug. 24, 2010.
Larry and Jeri Kennison walk past voting booths after marking their ballots in Middlesex, Vt. on Aug. 24, 2010. AP

People share that they voted in all sorts of ways. Many polling locations hand out stickers so you can show off that you cast your ballot, people post statuses on Facebook and other social media and you always have the good ole word of mouth.

There’s one way to share that many states have outlawed: Taking a picture of yourself in the voting booth, also known as a ballot selfie.

But that’s changing in time for the 2016 election in at least one state. A federal court ruled Wednesday that New Hampshire’s ballot selfie ban is unconstitutional because it violates the right to freedom of speech.

New Hampshire officials argued the ban was necessary to prevent vote buying and coercion. However, the state could offer no evidence of that happening due to ballot selfies.

“Digital photography, the internet, and social media are not unknown quantities — they have been ubiquitous for several election cycles, without being shown to have the effect of furthering vote buying or voter intimidation,” Judge Sandra Lynch wrote. “As the plaintiffs note, ‘small cameras’ and digital photography ‘have been in use for at least 15 years,’ and New Hampshire cannot identify a single complaint of vote buying or intimidation related to a voter’s publishing a photograph of a marked ballot during that period.”

Snapchat, now rebranded Snap Inc., got involved in the case in April, filing an amicus brief to support allowing ballot selfies. Chris Handman, general counsel for Snapchat, said in a release that the ruling was a victory for free speech in the digital age.

“We’re thrilled the court recognized that ballot selfies are an important way for Americans — especially younger Americans — to participate in the political process,” Handman said.

The penalty for taking a ballot selfie in New Hampshire was a fine of up to $1,000. Other states with similar rules impose possible jail times and threaten to invalidate your ballot. Only a handful of states, including Tennessee, Wyoming and Delaware, currently allow the practice.

It’s unclear how the federal ruling will affect the ballot-selfie policies of other states, and New Hampshire can always appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. But for now if you live in New Hampshire and want to show off that you voted for Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton or a third-party candidate in November, feel free to do so in selfie form.

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