Election 2012, Election Law, Pictures, Privacy, Technology

Photographing Your Ballot: It Might Be Illegal, Y’Know

If there’s one thing Americans are concerned about today other than voting, it’s taking pictures of themselves voting, about to vote, or having just voted. Because what’s the point of participating in democracy if you can’t photograph the experience, put ca-RAZY effects on the pictures, and then put them online?

There isn’t one, obviously.

Except for a little detail that photographing completed ballots is illegal in some parts of the country.


Gizmodo gives a primer (courtesy of Citizen Media Law Project) on the rather inconsistent pastiche of state laws governing the subject. In many states, it’s unambiguously not allowed. Let’s start with New York and California, because, well, that’s where we live and we’re selfish. Here’s New York:

Voters are prohibited from showing their ballots after prepared for voting to any person so as to reveal the contents.

And California has virtually the same rules:

The Elections Code states: “After the ballot is marked, a voter shall not show it to any person in such a way as to reveal its contents.”

And here’s what we’ve got for Ohio (aka the only place people really care about today). It’s definitely less clear-cut:

It’s illegal to exhibit any ticket or ballot which the elector intends to cast, but it’s unclear whether this law would only be applied before a ballot is cast.

Hmmm, that’s not really very helpful. But it’s a good example of the wide differences from place to place. More broadly, rules also differ about how much photography can occur within the polling place as a whole. Florida, for example, “expressly prohibits photography inside a polling room.” Check out the full list if you’re curious to see if you accidentally committed a misdemeanor today.

Seriously though, no one wants to see your ballot. Good for you, congratulations on performing your civic duty, but I don’t need documentary proof. If really you want to show off to your internet friends, just take a picture of your nifty “I voted” sticker instead. That’s what the rest of us law-abiding citizens do.

Is It Illegal To Instagram Your Vote? [Gizmodo]

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