Voting certainly represents an exciting and important privilege and right we possess in the United States. Because of this excitement, particularly in the maelstrom of the 2016 presidential election cycle, many people may naturally turn to social media to share their political views. However, before visually capturing yourself voting and sharing this event through social media as a “selfie,” you need to understand that certain jurisdictions actually prohibit such conduct.
Recently, Justin Timberlake posted an image on Instagram of himself at the voting booth in Tennessee. However, this seemingly innocent event violated a Tennessee law that took effect in early 2016 barring voters from taking photographs or video while inside a polling location. CBS News reports Mr. Timberlake now faces the question of whether he broke the law in promoting his voting.
Tennessee is not alone. Thus, it becomes important in this voting season to know, consider, and understand the laws of the state in which you will vote. According to the Associated Press, it is illegal to take a “ballot selfie” in 18 states including Illinois. While 19 other states allow selfies, the laws in the remaining states remain unclear.
In Illinois, the law states that one cannot knowingly mark her ballot so that another person can see it. If you this occurs and you violate the law, you could face between one and three years in prison.
Specifically, 10 ILCS 5/29-9, “Unlawful observation of voting,” provides that “any person who knowingly marks his ballot or casts his vote on a voting machine or voting device so that it can be observed by another person, and any person who knowingly observes another person lawfully marking a ballot or lawfully casting his vote on a voting machine or voting device, shall be guilty of a Class 4 felony.”
In Indiana, voters can snap away. Last year, U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker barred the state from enforcing its law prohibiting ballot selfies. In her decision, she held that the Indiana law violated the First Amendment.
So what can you do if you want to share proof with the world that you voted but don’t want to break any laws? Know the laws of the state in which you decide to vote! In most cases, you can take a selfie in front of building, take one as you leave, or even show off a close-up of your “I voted” sticker after departing the polling locations.
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