Ballot Selfies: What They Are and Why They’re Illegal Ballot Selfies: What They Are and Why They're a Problem

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC NEWS)-Taking pictures of your filled out ballot or ballot selfies and posting them online could get you in a lot of trouble. Earlier today, a Wisconsin man faces three and a half years and up to a $10,000 fine for posting a ballot selfie on his Facebook, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. In New York, it is illegal and punishable by either up to a year in jail or up to an $1,000 fine.

Ballot selfies are a trend that has popped up in recent years. People ranging from celebrities to parents have taken pictures of themselves with a ballot. If they showed a picture of a filled out ballot, then it would be illegal. This has to do with some of the older laws, according to Onondaga County Democratic Election Commissioner Dustin Czarny.

“Most of the concern comes from these anti-bribery laws from the early 1900s that where union officials and businesses were paying people extra to prove who they voted for,” Czarny said.

The start of the ballot selfies issue can be traced back to a specific musician, according to the Tully Center of Free Speech Director Roy Gutterman.

“Essentially we can blame Justin Timberlake for this when he voted in the 2016 election,” he said. “He took a selfie in the ballot box and in some states, that is illegal.”

However, ballot selfies also bring up issues with the First Amendment, Gutterman continued.

“People express themselves not only verbally but through photos and social media and you know take a picture of yourself voting, and post it on social media. That’s a form of First Amendment protected activity as well.”

But is there a difference between saying who you voted for online and posting a ballot selfie? It all has to do with the actual ballot, Czarny said.

“One thing is free speech. The other is taking a photo of an election instrument. Election property,” he said. “That ballot is not your property. It’s the property of the boards of elections and it can’t leave.”

Czarny gave some more advice for voters. To stay safe, you should either take a photo before you enter the booth or make sure you avoid showing who you voted for.

For more information on voting rules, you can check out the Onondaga County website.

Related Articles