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Ballot-selfies are now legal in New Hampshire

 A polling station in Nashua, New Hampshire. Photo by Mark Buckawicki via Wikimedia Commons

A law prohibiting New Hampshire voters from taking self-portraits with their ballots has been deemed unfair. Taking self-portraits with your ballot markings in a voting booth has been illegal in that state since 2014 and punishable by a fine of up to $1,000. The law was put in place to avoid potential vote-buying schemes. Politicians feared that the ballots in the images could be used for tracking and verifying influenced votes. 

This law has now deemed to be unfair and in violation of the First Amendment by the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston, which has upheld a lower court ruling. The court acknowledged the reasons for implementing the legislation but said in the ruling it felt there was a 'substantial mismatch between New Hampshire's objectives and ballot-selfie prohibition,' and that 'the restrictions on speech' were 'antithetical to democratic values.'

Ballot selfies are regulated in different ways across the US. A total of 26 states prohibit them explicitly through various laws, such as bans on cameras in polling places. In 9 states, now including New Hampshire and Oregon they are allowed and in the remaining states the law is unclear. The court ruling in Boston only has an impact in New Hampshire but hopefully other states will follow, as harmonized laws across the nation would provide some much-needed clarity on the subject.

Comments

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M Chambers

All selfies should be punishable by death. Use the freaking shutter delay!

In all seriousness it does seem like this could lead to selling votes.

11 months ago
falconeyes
falconeyes

Rather than punishing selfies, it would be much better to educate people to stay silent, or lie, on the question on who they voted for.

After all, the vote is free only if free from pressure from the social community you are living in. Worst would be a culture where you are expected to post your vote on FB.

Oct 24, 2016
Erick L

New Hampshire : Selfie or die.

Oct 2, 2016
Mark Turney
Mark Turney

Why is this even a story on DPR? I get criticized for occasionally complaining about things NOT gear related. Just saying.

Sep 30, 2016
daddyo

Agree Mark.
This is just a story about growing social insecurity.
"Hey everyone, look at me. Here I am!"

Sep 30, 2016
Marty4650
Marty4650

Someone saw the word "selfie" and thought "hey... this is a news story about self portrait photography... let's run it."

Sep 30, 2016
Ignat Solovey
Ignat Solovey

Well, technically, selfies published during the voting days may be considered illegal campaigning in jurisdictions where campaigning during a voting day and a day before is prohibited by nationwide law (so-called “Silent Day“).
This is the issue of cause and intended use. Of course, if you ban picture-taking itself and enforce that ban, no pictures will be published. However, usually only TAKING pictures is penalized, rather than their PUBLICATION, even though the damage is usually done by public access to the information and not by the fact that someone just got an image. Of course it is not the case in situations when and where the damage is done by the process, like strobes.
Another interesting moment is that where photography is expressly prohibited, drawing is not, however realistic it may be. And for those who care about lost profits (museums, landmarks, etc.), drawing seems to be more damaging these days than photographs, even if it's much easier to declare it fake or fantasy.

Sep 30, 2016*
EricAotearoa

I wonder what the law on that is here in NZ. On the eve of an election all advertising hoardings, billboards, etc. must be taken down. No advertising or any promotions of candidates or political parties are allowed on voting day. You cannot ask how a person voted as they come out of a polling booth. This is to stop any last minute influencing or pressure on voters by lobbyists, politicians or their parties. Totally different to how it's done in Australia, where you have to run a gambit of political stalls and lobbyists.
.

Sep 30, 2016
CQui

Same in France, I think it is 24h before teh vote that no advertizment has to stop, of course Internet brake this rule.

Sep 30, 2016
mais51
mais51

How could you do that - in Australia we still have election billboards up the power poles nearly three months after the election - taking them down two days before the election is not possible - we now print the party logo/symbol on the ballot paper to prevent mis-directed ballots due to parties of similar names. This came about because on one election one party name Democratic Liberal was mistaken for Liberal and they polled more than 10% of the votes - after the change in last election they only scored less than 3%

Oct 1, 2016
CQui

Well no one force you to take the selfy with the thing that actualy get into the box, I never voted in America, I know that in France when you vote you have plenty of ballot available so if someone want to check what you have actualy voted they can't because you could show them another one...

Sep 30, 2016
Marty4650
Marty4650

You know.... it is actually funny. We say we have a "secret ballot" but that just means "secret from each other." The government issues a numbered and coded ballot to each voter, after determining that they are eligible to vote.

They are very stingy with blank ballots to prevent vote fraud and people casting multiple votes in the same election. There is an elaborate procedure involved to replace a spoiled ballot.

This means that the government knows how you voted. The information is in their computers, and they could retrieve it any time they want to. We just assume they don't match up voters with how they actually voted, but they could easily do it if they wanted to.

Sep 30, 2016
Ignat Solovey
Ignat Solovey

@Marty4650 Ballots aren't numbered and coded everywhere. They have some degree of fraud protection, but even if the ballots themselves are numbered, that numbers usually aren't linked to your identity.
The very idea of secret voting is exactly this: to protect citizens/subjects from each other. Sure enough, it's up to you whether announce who did you vote for or did you vote at all, but you can't be officially forced to disclose such information, at least in places where election system does exist as something more than a decorum, even if it is fraudulent by nature or does not really decide anything (Russia, for instance).

Sep 30, 2016
Marty4650
Marty4650

I can only speak for the state I live in, and here you present yourself to an elections official, he or she will look you up on their list, and until very recently they would ask for a photo ID. But they stopped doing that when a federal judge ruled that requiring an ID was discriminatory. (Apparently it discriminates against people who aren't who they say they are.)

If everything is in order you are given a ballot, which also could depend on your party affiliation, during primary elections. That ballot has a serial number and a bar code on it. You then walk into a booth, mark your ballot, then feed it into a machine that sucks it in and swallows it.

My point was that the government knows two facts. They know which ballot was assigned to which person, and they have the physical ballots which are numbered. If they wanted to, they could easily put those two things together. Remember, they are in complete control of the process.

Sep 30, 2016
Ignat Solovey
Ignat Solovey

In Russia, where elections are mostly decorative event (pricey though), you MUST present your passport (Russia is one of very few countries left where internal ID is a paper book and not a card), where your residential registration is looked up and compared to a voters list, which is compiled according to different data, mostly from residents registers (you may look up the word ”propiska” on Wikipedia to see the scale of disaster). Then you're issued a ballot, which is not personalized and not cross-referenced to a person. Of course, if a voter uses some special pen, for example, bright red roller, both to sign the register and to put a check mark in ballot, someone interested may later find out who voted for whom. But generally here it is not an issue, because authorities are interested in general numbers rather than in opinion of specific citizen. Anyway, in small towns and villages everyone knows everyone, and in big cities there's no difference.

Sep 30, 2016
Ignat Solovey
Ignat Solovey

Moreover, since Russia has no minimum voter turnout requirements (even if only one person in the whole 145 million country would vote, the elections would be valid), and in general the election system is carefully crafted in a way to prevent any unexpected results, and there is no real custom of fair elections at all, the government, state security and Mr. Putin get what they want. One thing, though, which Russians will never understand, I think, is the US system of electoral colleges. I think it's a matter of trust (another paradox: average person would trust the supreme governor to assign officials, or would elect such officials, but would never trust his vote to elector. And even if the elections are fair, people gladly eat whatever propaganda feeds them. You may find me on Facebook and scroll down the timeline to September 19th, 2016. Funny Russian electoral math there: parliamentary constitutional majority of one party this year was secured using only 28% of population, not 68%...

Sep 30, 2016
mais51
mais51

Marty4650 - I doubt that the ballot paper is linked to the voter - it's just randomly selected - they must have a barcode for fraud protection - so they know the ballot paper is a legal one - for instant if it is not validated by the election officer then the voting machine will not accept it. Here in Australia the officer who hands out the ballot paper must initiated it on one corner - there is no bar code on our ballot paper - and every ballot paper is manually counted and counter signed by the scrutineers - no electronic or digital voting in Oz - we are yet to embrace the digital technology for fear of election manipulation through computer hacking

Oct 1, 2016
Impulses

How exactly do they ban cameras in half the states? Are they checking people's pockets for phones at the entrance or something?

Sep 30, 2016
ThePalindrome

If they find you post a picture of your ballot on FB you get fined.

Sep 30, 2016
Impulses

Then the ban is gonna do absolutely zilch against the thing people are seemingly most scared of (in these comments at least), anyone buying votes and requiring selfie proof would just demand the pic be texted/emailed/etc and anyone one else would be none that wiser.

In effect it's not even a ban on ballot selfies, it's a ban on broadcasting who you voted for which is probably why it wasn't upheld. If we're that paranoid about security there's probably better means to prevent voter fraud/bought votes, I'm sure a specially made paper that's harder to photograph or an electronic voting system could be made so it can't be photographed.

Technology isn't the issue, it's misuse is, and there's always ways around it.

Sep 30, 2016
naturetech

Less politics, more reviews, thanks.

Sep 30, 2016
GaryJP
GaryJP

Terrible mistake. Here in Hong Kong the pro-Beijing groups bribe people to vote for them and demand those people use their mobile phones to take photos of their ballot papers with the vote on.

I can see absolutely no reason why the desire for selfies every second trumps the need for free and fair elections.

Sep 30, 2016
Marty4650
Marty4650

Gary, precisely what does a law in New Hampshire have to do with Hong Kong?

Here in the USA, politicians don't pay people for votes. They might buy them beers, and hand out cigarettes or make wild promises of new spending programs before an election, but they don't demand photographic proof that you voted for them after one.

Our system of corruption is different. Our politicians pay the media to influence voters instead. We call it "political advertising" and in some races it can cost as much as $100 a vote.

Sep 30, 2016
Alex Permit
Alex Permit

Here in the USA, vote buying was commonplace back in the 19th century. Parties gave voters cash, food, alcohol, health care, poverty relief, and myriad other benefits in exchange for their votes. To gain leverage over voters, parties gathered information about their debts, their crimes, even their infidelities. This was changed when most states moved to secret ballots after the presidential election of 1884.

Sep 30, 2016
Alex Permit
Alex Permit

Chnia is just catching up to the USA, going through the same learning curve of corruption we did.

Sep 30, 2016
wy2lam

Marty4650, refer to what Alex Permit says. The system became fair due to the move to secret ballots. If people are allowed to take selfies, it'll just be a matter of time parties demand proofs that supporters vote for who they promised, because in effect allowing selfies will allow a way to take away the secrecy.

Assuming what is happening in Hong Kong to never happen in America is both naïve and dangerous.

Sep 30, 2016*
GaryJP
GaryJP

Vote buying disappeared, as said above, because there was no way to ascertain people voted as promised. This move removes that problem. And the vote buying is not always money. It can be dinners, freebies, and other bribes. It is absurdly naive to consider the USA above it.

Oct 1, 2016
Vik2012

I can only see this as useful in countries with dictators who claim 100% of the popular (staged) vote.

On the other hand, you might not want to have your selfie with your ballot published if you live there.

Sep 30, 2016
Alex Permit
Alex Permit

Don't believe it can't happen here in the USA? I could. Just imagine the ad:

Post a selfie of your vote for Donald Trump, and enter a raffle for a two night stay at the Trump hotel of your choice! Free trip on the Trump Plane!

Sep 30, 2016*
photogeek

Say what you will about Trump, but at least he had the decency to win the primary fair and square. That's more than can be said about Clinton, who had to rig her primary to win it, and then hired the disgraced person who helped her do it immediately after she was forced to resign.

Oct 2, 2016
Alex Permit
Alex Permit

To be fair and balanced

Post a selfie of your vote for Hillary Clinton and enetr a raffle for a meeting with her when she is President. Vote early and for an added bonus, meet as well with a cabinet member of your choice.

Makes my point. It can happen here.

Oct 2, 2016
photogeek

Selfie isn't going to be enough. A couple million dollars or more guarantees resolution of previously insurmountable problems, though.

Oct 3, 2016
ZorSy

Ballot selfies are great point of conversation after the elections - I often wonder who voted for idjots on power and I want to have the proof it wasn't me who put them there......
(sarcasm off)

Sep 30, 2016
Paco Ignacio

Unfortunately stupidity is always legal

Sep 30, 2016
knappe duivel
knappe duivel

stupidity gets people being caught doing illegal stuff

Sep 30, 2016
BBQue

Why would anyone want to do that anyway - stupid, stupid, stupid.... unless you live in Russia and need to prove to your friend Putin that you marked the "right" box.

Sep 29, 2016
Peiasdf

Too dumb to realize the problem exists here and by implying it is only happening in Russia you are trying to cover it up.

Oct 2, 2016
Photo Pete

I can't imagine that moving an 'X' in photoshop would be too difficult. Selfie photos would prove nothing about how you voted.

Sep 29, 2016
GaryJP
GaryJP

Typically, vote buyers demand to see your mobile phone AS SOON AS you leave the voting station. The people they bribe, being mostly old or poor, are usually not Photoshop wizards.

Sep 30, 2016
angus rocks
angus rocks

i am a true believer in "states rights" but photography is not a crime. on military bases, embassies, and other locations with a specific need for ultra privacy, as well as public places, under stairs for up-skirts, ew, disgusting, should be photo free zones. i know up-skirt under stairs was deemed legal, but still disgusting. but states don't have the right, to deny rights. and i think more people should fight for photography rights. and i thank the 3 people who followed this threw, and pushed back against an attack on "free speech".

Sep 29, 2016
mosc

Secret ballot is also a right, just as important as free speech.

Sep 29, 2016
angus rocks
angus rocks

but a selfie by definition is taken by you. want a secret ballot, don't take a picture. you work for someone who says you have to prove your vote, call your secretary of state. that's a felony.

Sep 29, 2016
Marty4650
Marty4650

You have a right to a secret ballot, but you cannot impose it on anyone else.

Just remember, these are "selfies" and not photos of other people's ballots.

If people want to show their ballots, it is entirely their right to do so. In fact, just about everyone freely discusses how they voted, or how they plan to vote.

Sep 29, 2016
Vik2012

There is certainly a danger that, in some cases, a person may feel an obligation to show how they voted. Gone is the barrier to putting someone under pressure to prove that they voted for a particular candidate.

A wife of a friend comes to mind. She has always voted for a party that opposes her husband's chosen party, which is her democratic right. He's so passionate about his party's policies that she has never argued with him and he is none the wiser.

Of course, no one has to take a selfie, but will not doing so become akin to not allowing a partner see your email or phone? I'm amazed at the number of times the partner of a friend has replied to my messages to him... on his account. Trust issues? Maybe. But, it happens a lot.

Sep 30, 2016
GaryJP
GaryJP

Some of you are missing the point, which is precisely that vote buyers ONLY get their power from forcing you to provide a record of your vote.

Otherwise you could take the money and vote for who the heck you like. I have seen this in operation.

"but a selfie by definition is taken by you. "

Sure. But removing from everyone the ability to take one reduces the chances of coercion of others. An enforced secret ballot is a mode of protection.

Ah well, democracy in the US seems to be going to Hades in a handbasket anyway.

Sep 30, 2016*
angus rocks
angus rocks

i am sorry for your friend. but we are talking about a 1st amendment right of freedom of speech. i truly am sorry for your friend, but a state taking away a right, is the wrong way to fix it. i don't have a right to post my thoughts on this website, that is a privilege. i do have a right to film police at work in a public place, and that protects me and them. states trying to take away "rights" scares me, it should scare everyone. i wouldn't have ever thought of taking a picture of my vote, maybe my age, i don't know, but taking away other's rights because it causes difficulties for your friend, NO. i'm sorry, but NO.

Sep 30, 2016
ThePalindrome

HAving a secret ballot is a right, but for example I believe you are not allowed to take someone else into the vooting booth (except your small child) even f you want to. And it's for the same reasons, so that no one can influence your vote, e.g. men changing their wives vote.

Sep 30, 2016
Ignat Solovey
Ignat Solovey

I take a lot of pictures where and when anyone else isn't allowed even to approach with a camera (no state/military secrets or pornography involved, though). I take them for, say, archival purposes or whatever other reasons. Of course I'm not only allowed to photograph, but requested and sometimes even paid extra to do so. The problem isn't in photography but in publication of photographs, and those who ban photography in their reach, just do what they can to prevent publication (doing haircut with guillotine, yes, but...). I.e. you can ban photography to avoid dumb casuals flashing their built-in strobes and blinding animals in nocturnal section at the zoo, but see no problem in making individual exceptions for those who don't use flash and can prove that.

Sep 30, 2016*
mosc

There's always pressure to enforce voting on other people. Employers saying things like "submit your Donald Trump ballot pictures here" is closer than most people like to think. Disclosing who you voted for is free speech but being able to PROVE who you voted for is more than that, it's disclosure and then it's not a secret ballot system any longer.

I understand people taking selfies of everything and being proud of both voting and (sometimes) who they're voting for but they have to keep in mind the rights of others to privacy. If disclosure becomes too common then those who do not want to disclose can be retaliated against and then democracy doesn't work.

Sep 29, 2016
Impulses

Or you can use your phone and record whoever is coercing you instead; then blackmail him, take it to the authorities, put it up on FB, etc... :p I know the whole argument for this is more about stopping the one coercing from even having that option but still, how do you even enforce it either way? Are they patting people down for phones before they're allowed to head to their booth or something? That seems like a good way to dampen voter turnout in a country where it's already an issue.

Sep 30, 2016