18 states ban ballot selfies, and the reason actually makes some sense.
Think of taking an Election Day selfie alongside your ballot? Think again.
Depending on the state you live in, you might be breaking a law (even if you’re Justin Timberlake, who found himself “under review” for a ballot selfie, which he has since deleted, earlier this week).
Earlier this week, the Associated Press published a guide to laws involving ballot selfies, which vary from state to state. In 19 states (plus the District of Columbia), you’re clear to bust out your camera and snap yourself excitedly taking part in the democratic process.
But in 18 states, it’s best to leave your phone in your pocket while at the polls. In the 13 remaining states, ballot selfie laws are a bit unclear.
On one hand, just 57.5% of eligible voters cast ballots in the 2012 presidential election, and ballot selfies might encourage people to get out and vote. If the ability to post a picture of your completed ballot to social media makes you more likely to vote (and if seeing the ballots of others is more likely to nudge you into participating), then sure, there’s a huge case to be made for legalizing ballot selfies nationwide. Anything we can do to help encourage people to head to the polls on Election Day should be done especially if it’s something this easy.
On the other hand, the reasons these laws exist in many states have nothing to do with our current age of social media instead they’re related to concerns about vote buying. Vote buying is exactly what it sounds like: paying people to use their vote to cast a ballot in a certain way. How do cameras factor in? Typically, people being paid in vote buying schemes would be required to show proof that they voted in accordance with their agreement; one way to do this was to snap a picture in the booth. Knowing this, banning ballot photos makes perfect sense.
Courts are currently wrestling with the issue. A federal appeals court recently overturned New Hampshire’s ban on ballot photos on First Amendment grounds. It should be interesting to see what effect that might have on other states.
Luckily, there are other ways you can use social media to share your voting experience.
From Sept. 23 to 26, Facebook posted reminders to users urging them to register to vote. Users were directed to vote.usa.gov at the click of a “Register Now” button. And it looks like it worked: Facebook’s call sparked a pretty sizable boost in several states’ enrollment. Selfie or not, you can share a status letting friends know you’re registered and ready to vote!
Even if you can’t get your ballot into the picture, there are plenty of other ways to show your excitement for voting in photographs! Did you get one of those “I Voted” stickers? Take a picture and share it with the world! Meeting up with your friends before casting your ballot? Take a group photo as you pile into your ride. Live in a state that bans photography within 100 feet of polling locations (what’s up with that, Texas?)? Stand 101 feet away and snap your selfie. There are bound to be some good Election Day Snapchat filters you can use. There are dozens of really creative ways you can let the world know you’re voting!
But the most important thing you can do before heading to your polling place is to prepare. (I know, I know this isn’t the most exciting thing in the world, but it really is important.)
Depending on where you live, you’ll be voting for far more than just a president this November. Members of Congress, local officials, mayors, governors, referendums, ordinances, and amendments to your state constitution may also be up for votes.
That’s why it’s important to come prepared to the polling place, and that means getting a feel for what your ballot will look like. Luckily, again, the internet has you covered. If you search the words “sample ballot” on Google, you’ll be shown a box where you can type in your address to see what’s up for a vote in your area. Additionally, it gives you the option of learning more about the positions of candidates and more.