If a millennial voter goes to the polls but isn’t allowed to take a *ballot selfie to document the moment on social media, did it really happen?
You might be surprised to learn there is an active question surrounding the *legality of so-called ballot selfies in the US, with conflicting opinions held by election officials in the Chicago area and elsewhere. Some like the idea, while others are *appalled and won’t allow photography. That means depending on where young people vote on Nov 8, or during early voting, they could get in trouble for whipping out their smartphone.
But, the rules aren’t straightforward.
For example, in the Chicago, Illinois area, Cook County Clerk David Orr says all photography is banned at all polling places, citing privacy concerns. But a spokesman for the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners says city voters have a constitutional right to take ballot selfies. Also in Illinois, Lake County voters are being allowed to snap selfies, “as long as they don’t *infringe on anyone else’s ballot security, we are OK with it,” Lake County Clerk Carla Wyckoff said.
The question rarely, if ever, came up before because people in previous generations didn’t make photography such an integral part of their lives. Actually, the opposite was true. There were barriers to taking pictures, because most people didn’t carry cameras and because of privacy concerns. Polling stations were a prime example as there is a tradition of secret ballots and laws against electioneering, voter fraud and intimidation that seemed *incompatible with allowing photography.
“You never want to have that pressure of ‘Show me how you voted’,” says Orr.
The *starkest argument in favor of a ban is that shooting pictures of completed ballots could encourage vote buying (show a photo to prove you voted for Candidate X and collect $10, for example). Voter fraud was more common decades ago, but the argument still carries sway. The Associated Press recently identified 18 states, including Illinois, in which current law appeared to view ballot selfies as illegal. The AP said Illinois law declares it a *felony to “knowingly” fill out a ballot and *divulge it to another person. Conviction could mean imprisonment of one to three years.
Times change, though, and selfies rule: selfies at dinner, at Wrigley Field and, sure, at the ballot box. The internet and social media allow all citizens to express themselves, so no shock that many voters want to show Election Day pride with their ballot photos.
Think of a ballot selfie as the digital equivalent of a citizenship badge. On Election Day, many people who perform their civic duty proudly wear a sticker that says “I voted” – the photo says the same thing.