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Are Ballot Selfies Legal?

  • October 17, 2020

In the late 1800s, the Australian ballot arrived on U.S. shores, and state by state, election rules were changed: Ballots had to be printed by the government, and booths or rooms needed to be provided for privacy.

Then, as now, each state made its own rules of conduct around voting. Today, taking a “ballot selfie” is fine in more than half the country, but illegal in states like South Carolina, Texas and Nevada.

In some places, the laws can be confusing. Voters in Colorado, for example, have been able to take and share photos of their ballots since 2017. But they cannot do so at a polling location, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of State said.

“A lot of our election laws in New Jersey were written at the turn of the last century, at a time when there was a lot of voter fraud going on,” said Micah Rasmussen, the director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University. “They were really concerned with preserving the secrecy of the vote. That carried into this provision from 2005 of not letting people see how you’re voting.” In New Jersey, posting a photo of your ballot is a criminal offense.

States like New Hampshire and California have changed their ballot selfie laws in recent years, so celebrities in the Los Angeles area can post away.

“Sharing a ballot selfie is a magnificent display of civic participation,” said Marc Levine, the member of the California State Assembly who led the charge on amending the law in 2016.

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