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Voting can be exciting! Understandably, some people want to document their voting experience by taking a picture of themselves with their ballot. These "ballot selfies" can be a great way to commemorate voting, but they can also be illegal.
Different states have different laws (or no laws) regarding pictures at polling stations, so do you need to be worried about the pictures you take around Election Day? Maybe.
Depending on the state in which you live, your ballot selfie could be illegal. While some states have passed laws explicitly regarding ballot selfies, other states have laws that prohibit photography in and/or around polling places.
The general reasoning for both the support and opposition of a voter's ability to take a ballot selfie is rooted in concepts that have been discussed since voting in America first began, so understanding the current debate about ballot selfies requires some background information.
Freedom of expression is critical in politics, and supporters of ballot selfies often view their self-portraits as a way of exercising their freedom of speech. Additionally, many people believe that posting selfies is a great way to get their peers to go vote, therefore increasing voter participation.
Some state governments agree with this perspective to the point of passing legislation that explicitly legalizes ballot selfies to encourage “voter pride, political speech, and civic engagement through social media." However, not everyone holds this point of view.
Even though free speech can have a positive impact on society, it can also create opportunities for abuse. Opponents of ballot selfies are generally concerned about the possibility of voter intimidation and vote buying.
There were times in U.S. history when sharing your ballot could have serious, negative consequences.
For example, if an employer knew how their employees voted and did not like it, the employer could potentially retaliate against them. The possibility of losing a job or facing retaliation could be enough for voters to choose a particular candidate on a ballot.
Long ago, some candidates even tried to buy people's votes and would offer a payment or reward to people who voted for them. Politicians even went so far as to set up “voting shops" to pay people for their votes. Vote buying is still an issue, and some opponents of ballot selfies worry non-secretive voting could open the door for vote-buying in the U.S. again.
Smartphones are not going away anytime soon, and state and local governments are passing laws that address that state's stance on ballot selfies. For now, it is worth your time to look into your state's ballot selfie laws before you snap a picture of your ballot and share it with your friends or followers.