You might want to think about leaving your phone at home when you head out to vote in November; taking pics at your polling place could land you in jail, depending on where you live. So, why can't you take photos in the voting booth? Well, here's what you need to know before the midterms roll around next month.
There are many reasons why taking a photo inside the voting booth can cause problems. These laws were put into place to keep people from intimidating voters or participating in vote bribery, according to USA Today. It also preserves the integrity of the voting process. “I imagine it’s tempting to show others how you voted, but it is contrary to a theory of democratic government that recognizes the need to safeguard votes for unpopular candidates,” Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, told HuffPost.
Taking voting selfies, or taking pics of your voting ballot, falls into a very gray area. Some states allow it, while others deem it illegal. A recent study from the Associated Press, as reported by Vox, noted that it is legal to take a photo with a ballot in 21 states including Washington, D.C.
For instance, California passed a law after the 2016 primary elections, allowing pictures within the voting booth. A memo from the office California Secretary of State Alex Padilla said:
A voter may now take a photograph of their ballot (a "ballot selfie") and share it on social media. While "ballot selfies" are now allowed under California law, elections officials and poll workers will still need to exercise their discretion as to whether "ballot selfies" cause disruptions requiring a response.
In at least 16 other states, however, it remains illegal, and can get you a fine or even jail time, according to Vox.
It's easy to see why some states would allow voting selfies; it's a means to get excited about the process and hopefully bring more people to the polls. It makes sense in a world where everything else is documented on social media in real time.
In contrast, the state of Tennessee has strict rules against so-called voting (or ballot) selfies for 2018, according to CNN. Each selfie violation will be tried on its own merit, so consequences can vary. But, most commonly, a fine will be levied if deemed necessary, according to The Nashville Scene.
During the 2017 presidential election, Justin Timberlake famously posted a voting selfie on Instagram, which garnered tons of attention from both fans and the media. He was unaware that such a photo was illegal in his home state of Tennessee, according to CNN. The post has since been deleted. Note: Don't make the same mistake as Justin Timberlake. Check out your state's stance on photos first.
Proponents for the no-selfie law think that it helps even the playing field and allows voters to make their own choices without intimidation or influence. Allowing people to show a marked ballot opens up a world of problems including compromised voting, New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner told NPR. "If somebody wants to go out and say that they voted for this person or that person they can do it. They can do it, but that ballot is sacred," Gardner told NPR.
For a full list of rules and regulations in your state visit Vote.org for more information.
So, if you're in the booth come Nov. 6 and have an itch to take pic, think before you do. Because your next social media post might get you in some hot water.