With the Presidential election looming in a few weeks, here is a reminder that taking a “ballot selfie” to show your social media circles how you voted in New York is actually illegal. Recent published reports note that federal courts recently struck down bans on ballot selfies in New Hampshire and Indiana led us to research what exactly the law is in New York.
Election Law 17-130 states, in part:
Any person who … makes or keeps any memorandum of anything occurring within the booth, or directly or indirectly, reveals to another the name of any candidate voted for by such voter; or shows his ballot after it is prepared for voting, to any person so as to reveal the contents … is guilty of a misdemeanor.
While the law does not specifically mention photographs, New York is one of 18 states that prohibits “ballot selfies” which is a photo of a completed ballot. The intent of the law is to maintain the secrecy of the voting booth. Advocates assert that laws like this prevent “vote-buying” and coercion.
However, critics disagree, and argue that laws like this were written before the advent of social media, where it has become commonplace for just about everyone to over-share their lives. Critics also argue that sharing a personal experience in voting is a useful advocacy tool in promoting voter participation and issue awareness – especially among younger voters who grew up with the internet.
Federal courts in Both New Hampshire and Indiana found that the prohibitions against “ballot selfies” criminalize political expression, and therefore violate the First Amendment in order to solve a problem no one seems to see as a problem.
So when you go to vote in New York for Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton or whoever else you want to write in, keep your smartphone in your pocket.