Warning: Sharing a Selfie With Your Ballot Might Be Illegal
Seventeen states have laws against taking photos in voting booths. Make sure you know the rules before you post.
These days, it is tempting to snap a photo of just about everything (admit it, you’ve shared a particularly pretty latte). But when you go to vote on Election Day November 8, depending on where you live, you might need to keep your phone in your pocket. The Associated Press recently reviewed the laws in every state around the legality of taking a selfie in a voting booth. While it is legal to do so in 20 states and Washington, D.C., taking a photo of your ballot is illegal in 17 states—and can land you with a fine or even jail time.
For example, in Illinois, showing your marked ballot to another voter is considered a felony that can earn you one to three years in prison. In Colorado, publicizing a completed ballot is a misdemeanor.
There has been a lot of debate over whether ballot selfies should be allowed. Those in favor of the photos argue that they are protected under the First Amendment and that social media posts encourage younger voters to go to the polls. In fact, a 2012 study published in Nature showed that Facebook users are more inclined to vote after seeing that their friends voted and posted about it on social media.
Those against ballot selfies cite concerns that the photos could encourage vote-buying or coercion. In other words, a person who was paid to vote a certain way could easily provide proof of his or her vote by taking a picture of her ballot.
The subject was brought to the foreground this week when Justin Timberlake posted a photo from his Memphis, Tennessee voting place. Tennessee, which the Associated Press classified as a state with “mixed or unclear” laws, bars voters from taking photographs or video while inside a polling location, but does allow phones for “informational purposes to assist the voter in making election decisions.” The District Attorney’s office said it will not be pursuing an investigation.
If you’re planning to photograph more than your “I Voted” sticker on November 8, make sure to consult the entire list of states where selfies are allowed, illegal, and where the status is mixed or unclear over at the Associated Press.