You may have been unaware that if you live in New Hampshire (and some other states) and you take a selfie of yourself with your completed ballot in the voting booth and then post it to social media you could be fined. It’s the “ballot selfie law” which should probably have been struck down originally just for having such a stupid name. But there it was, on the books for the last year or so, and it caught up one guy who voted for his deceased dog. But now, both the inhumed hound and the voter have had their good names cleared. (WaPo)
During the 2014 New Hampshire Republican primary, a voter decided he didn’t like his options. So he wrote in the name of his recently deceased dog, snapped a pic of his ballot, and then posted it to social media.
Andrew Langlois got a notice a few days later from the New Hampshire secretary of state saying he was being investigated for breaking a law — the ballot selfie law.
Up until Tuesday, it was illegal in New Hampshire to take a photo of a ballot in the voting booth. But on Tuesday, a federal judge struck down the state’s 2014 ballot selfie law on the grounds it limited free political speech.
“What this law ignored, and what the court recognized, is that displaying a photograph of a marked ballot on the Internet is a powerful form of political speech that conveys various constitutionally protected messages,” said Gilles Bissonnette, legal director of New Hampshire’s ACLU branch, which sued on behalf of the dog’s owner and a few other ballot selfie takers in the state.
This was a law primarily pushed by the Republicans but that doesn’t make it much better. I understand the motivation, which they made clear when the original bill was debated. In the event of voter fraud (which is imaginary according to Democrats) there could be cases where people (probably the same Democrats) agree to pay the financially disadvantaged to vote for their candidate. But how does the voter for hire prove that they’ve completed the transaction? By taking a selfie with the completed ballot!
Okay… that’s a problem. But is it enough of a problem to justify stopping people who want to proudly demonstrate their support for their candidate from doing so? The court seemed to agree that this is a powerful form of political speech. I have to agree. If the outcome of the election looks dodgy or allegations are raised about fraud, the long arm of the law could probably look into any such selfies and question those involved as to whether or not they’d sold out. But banning the practice for everyone seems like another case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. This sounds like the court got it right in New Hampshire, so get out there and take those selfies if you must.
But just for the record, the following is still always a bad idea.