“Ballot Selfies” – A Good or Bad Thing?

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The “selfie” culture has made its way into the ballot box. Voters taking photos of themselves with their ballots at the polls is now creating a legislative dilemma for states. Most state laws restrict voters from sharing ballot information or images, since they are meant to protect voter privacy and curb “vote-selling” and other schemes where photos can be used as proof for transactions.

At least 30 states have a variety of laws clearly prohibiting the disclosure of ballots. Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, New Jersey and New York explicitly bar the photographing or filming of marked ballots.

In California of 2012, Kim Kardashian famously used Instagram to post her absentee ballot for the White House race to rally voters to the polls. While Kardashian avoided scrutiny by posting a blank ballot, a Bay Area lawmaker is trying to amend state law to make similar selfies legal.

“Passing this bill is important to protect First Amendment freedom of speech rights and encourage a culture of voter participation,” said Assemblyman Marc Levine, a Democrat and the bill’s sponsor. Levine’s bipartisan supported bill would legalize the taking and posting of all ballot selfies, including marked and filled in ones.

Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School and specialist in election laws, told The Los Angeles Times that California’s current laws banning ballot selfies is problematic in the digital age. However, she thinks altering these laws might have the unintended consequence of making it easier for organizations or employers to “pressure” voters.

“An employer could say, ‘Oh, we’re all voting for this today, really looking forward to seeing your ballot on Facebook later,’ ” said Levinson. She also questions the argument if allowing the selfies will actually increase California voter turnout.

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