Ballot Selfies are Illegal
Voting in New York on Tuesday? Thinking of taking a selfie or a snap chat of your ballot to document your vote? Think again…..You are breaking the law. Ballot selfies are illegal.
Publishing a marked ballot on social media is a misdemeanor. New York Election Law §17-130 (10) states “[a]ny person who shows his ballot after it is prepared for voting, to any person so as to reveal the contents, or solicits a voter to show the same is guilty of a misdemeanor. A violation of this law is punishable by fines up to $1,000 and one year in prison.
The 1890 law was recently challenged by three citizens. They argued that such a prohibition is a restriction on free speech. U.S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel disagreed, holding “[t]he public’s interest in orderly elections outweighs the plaintiffs’ interest in taking and posting ballot selfies”. The law originated to protect against voter coercion, whether it be from employers or religious groups. Judge Castel stated “[w]ithout the statute, employers, unions, and religious groups could encourage their members to upload images of their marked ballots to a single location to prove their commitment to the designated candidate.” It is important to remember that the plaintiffs who commenced this lawsuit did so only 13 days before the election. This may have played a role in the Judge’s decision to uphold the 126 year-old law. Judge Castel wrote “[n]ot only would a preliminary injunction wreak havoc on election-day logistics, real concerns exist about the delays and privacy intrusions that ballot selfies could cause.”
The dispute is not over. There is discussion of repealing the law. Assembly member Linda Rosenthal and State Senator Brad Hoylman announced that they will introduce the #IVoted Bill, legalizing ballot selfies. Maybe in next year’s election you will be able to tweet a photo of your ballot with the hashtag IVoted, followed by a picture of your ballot.
The law, however, should not discourage you from voting. Your vote matters.