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A voter bring away a selfie while dropping his ballot for the 2020 united state presidential choice in a unique postbox listed by the united state Embassy in Bangkok. Mladen Antonov/AFP via Getty pictures
if tapping with Instagram Stories, girlfriend are likely to see at the very least a few of your friends posing through their vote ballots. Before you follow their lead, check to watch whether her state quiet bans the practice — or you might end up choose Justin Timberlake, that in 2016 turned off a picture of self voting after realizing it was against the law in Tennessee.

You are watching: Can you take a picture of your ballot

In plenty of states, it’s perfectly legal come share a so-called “ballot selfie,” so have at it. But taking a photograph of her ballot and also posting it digital is not allowed in at least 14 states, and also in others, you will do it be in miscellaneous of a gray zone.

It took the us over a century come adopt an enig ballots ~ above a prevalent basis; now the omnipresence of cellphone cameras is forcing states to reevaluate simply how an enig they should be. An ext and more states have allowed the practice, hearne to disagreements that ballot self are safeguarded by complimentary speech principles and are “good because that democracy.” however not anyone in agreement, as Zachary Crockett explained for znjke.com in 2016:

Those in opposition claim that ballot selfies could “compromise elections” by encouraging poll buying. The is, a person who is being payment to poll a certain way can easily, and also privately, prove she did therefore by acquisition a photo of her ballot.

Still, the rule have readjusted in rather a few places end the previous decade — including in at least five states since 2016. So us checked where it’s it s okay for friend to post away and also where you might want to share a photograph of your “I voted” sticker instead. Regardless of whereby you live, however, you must be mindful that her photo consists of only your ballot, not other voters or your ballots.

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A map of state rules on share a photo of your ballot. Tim Ryan Williams/znjke.com

The history of the an enig ballot

Thanks to mystery ballots, no one have the right to confirm exactly how you vote this November, however it wasn’t constantly that way. Voting provided to it is in a public affair. The college of Virginia website recounts how eligible American voters — “all guys in those days” — would execute so either by viva voce (calling the end their desired candidates) or through depositing “a highly visible ticket in a crate or transparent seasoned or hand that in to an election clerk.” In short, voting supplied to it is in a “mass spectacle,” a raucous affair that characterized “the political worlds of Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe and Lincoln.”

As Jill Lepore created for the brand-new Yorker in 2008, this system ended up being unwieldy as the populace grew and also the US began dealing with “massive fraud and intimidation.” together reformers started moving toward a secret-ballot system, Lepore wrote, detractors favor John Stuart Mill warned that its consequences:

Voting, Mill insisted, is not a right yet a trust: if it were a right, who can blame a voter for selling it? Every masculine vote need to be public because that the same factor that votes top top the floor the the legislature space public. If a congressman or a Member of Parliament could conceal his vote, would we not mean him to poll badly, in his very own interest and not in ours? A secret vote is, by definition, a selfish vote. Only if a guy votes “under the eye and criticism of the public” will he put public interest above his own.

Despite the objections of Mill and also others that cautioned versus allowing civilization to vote privately, in the 1890s the US embraced the idea the the federal government should administer you a ballot and that vote should, in fact, take place behind closed doors.

Importantly, some states also adopted this reform no to address concerns about voter intimidation yet to restrict access for Black and also low-income voters. “Anybody that couldn’t read a very facility ballot, on their own, in secret, in a type of a sanctified an are was basically disenfranchised. And also that was the idea,” Flinders college professor Don DeBats called the Australian transfer Corporation earlier this month.

Camera phones and also the reimagining the the secret ballot

As society media and also the ubiquity the cellphone cameras make sharing significant ballots easy, choice officials have been compelled to reckon through the age-old problem their predecessors thought they had actually solved: should we restrict freedom of expression in ~ the ballot box?

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A guy takes a selfie through his son as that waits to poll at a polling station on November 8, 2016, in the Brooklyn borough of new York City. Alexander F. Yuan/AP advocates of ballot self think they can encourage others to vote. Erich Ebel, a spokesperson for Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman at the time, said CNN in 2018 that ballot self “could possibly also encourage more people to obtain their own ballots submitted prior to the deadline.”

Some states that ban ballot selfies have suggested choices they to speak could attain a similar effect, the nationwide Conference of State Legislatures note on its website. For example, Georgia’s “Post the Peach” project “encourage world to take a photo wearing the ‘I’m a Georgia Voter’ sticker v a peach in the background,” and the Tennessee secretary the state’s office “encouraged voter to publish off a ‘I voted – have You?’ sign and post image on society meeting using #GoVoteTN.”

States that allow ballot selfies, as well as other supporters of the practice, cite free speech concerns as a rationale for opposing bans. Yet detractors are an ext concerned through voter intimidation and vote buying.

Idaho Deputy Secretary that State Chad Houck claimed he worries that in the period of “cancel culture,” if “a mystery ballot to be breached, if human being knew how other human being were voting,” there could be consequences.

And Maura Browning, a spokesperson because that Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, noted that “the secrecy of your ballot ensures the there can not be voter intimidation.”

Take the story the a Florida manufacturing company. ABC-13, one Orlando abc affiliate, reported the the president of the Daniels production Corporation (DMC) contained a letter in his employees’ current paystubs that told lock layoffs can be unavoidable if “Biden and the democrats win.” alphabet 13 further reported the “some employees ... Feel they were endangered with being laid turn off if they did not support President Donald Trump.”

It’s not hard to check out a human being where a DMC employee who posted a photograph showing their vote for previous Vice president Joe Biden rather of for Trump could fear consequences at work.

Another concern is vote buying. As former US lawyer Kerry Harvey described to the Louisville Courier-Journal in 2016, ballot selfies “solve the ‘verification’ problem for poll buyers.”

“Selfies in the vote booth will certainly make it simpler to successfully buy votes and also harder come detect,” Harvey told the Courier-Journal in an email. Merely put, world are much an ext likely to shot to buy her vote if lock can obtain proof of acquisition (via a ballot selfie) than if they’re simply relying on your word that you fulfilled your finish of the bargain.

However, some officials feeling this is unlikely to it is in an issue. Mike Queen, deputy chief of staff and also communications director for West Virginia Secretary that State Mac Warner, told me the office “ had any kind of claims or complaints around vote purchase in the last 4 years.”

And together Gilles Bissonnette, legitimate director in ~ the ACLU of new Hampshire, told brand-new Hampshire public Radio after the state i rejected its ballot take self prohibition, focusing on the voter can not be the finest solution, even if you are concerned around vote purchase or intimidation:

If the rationale for such a decided restriction is to shot to protect against vote bribery or voter coercion, climate the state should investigate and try to prosecute poll bribery and voter forced ... Fairly than spreading a law that sweeps in ~ its scope protected speech, innocent speech, political speech that has actually nothing to carry out with vote bribery and also voter coercion.

See more: Broward County Circuit Judge Merrilee Ehrlich, About Judge Ehrlich

The nation is still consisting of its mind. Here’s where your state falls in the debate.

Where ballot selfies space legal

Connecticut: The secretary that state’s office called znjke.com that “there space no restrictions” and “if it doesn’t develop a disturbance in the polling location then it’s not something we’re concerned about.”District that Columbia: Washingtonians may not have actually congressional representation, however at the very least they deserve to snap a take self at the polls. DC plank of poll spokesperson Nick Jacobs called znjke.com the ballot self are enabled but want to put “a huge emphasis” ~ above respecting “every various other voter’s privacy and their anonymity in spreading their ballot.”Iowa: i spoke with Molly Widen, legal counsel to Iowa’s secretary that state, that told me ballot selfies are legal but, as in various other states, friend can’t take it photos of other world or other people’s ballots.

Where ballot selfies are illegal

West Virginia: Mike Queen, deputy chef of staff and communications director to Secretary the State Mac Warner, told znjke.com the the state does not “permit people taking pictures inside of polling locations ... Whether it it is in the ballot or anything.”

Where it’s complicated

Idaho: ns spoke through Deputy Secretary the State Chad Houck, that told me that while that doesn’t believe there is any statute on the books, the state’s constitution requires a an enig ballot.