You're excited to vote. You want to share the moment with your friends, so you snap a selfie, right!? Believe it or not, that may be a crime. Tune in to learn more about the crime of the ballot selfie.
Suraj Patel is an attorney and an adjunct professor of ethics at NYU Stern School of Business and has served as an aide to various political campaigns and administrations.
Suraj Patel: So I’m in the voting booth, and I’m so excited because I just voted for the first time! What do I do? Naturally, I snap a selfie. I send it to my Snapchat story, post it on Facebook, post it to Instagram, and tweet it out to my friends, and for good measure, I also text it to people. Nothing wrong right? Have I committed a crime? I might have. I’m Suraj Patel, and you’re watching TalksOnLaw.
Now, ballot selfies are actually illegal in most states. Why is that so? I mean, after all, don’t I have a First Amendment right to free speech? And if not for political speech, then what is that Amendment for? Shouldn’t I be able to share a picture of my ballot and tell people who I voted for, or that I voted? Well, turns out, there’s actually a pretty legitimate reason why states ban ballot selfies. Say I was a person engaging in a scheme to buy votes. What better way to verify that the people I’m actually paying voted the way I told them to vote? Obviously, a picture. Most states issued a ban on taking pictures of ballots for this exact reason—to guard the integrity of our voting process. So doesn’t the First Amendment protect my right to share pictures of my ballot? Well, the ACLU and others are actually fighting bans on ballot pictures. In the meanwhile, those bans are still in effect in many states. And while there is an argument that your First Amendment right should trump that ban, the laws are still good in most places. So next time you’re voting and you want to snap that ballot selfie, just know that it may be illegal. I’m Suraj Patel, and thanks for watching TalksOnLaw.