Guys, Stop Instagramming Your Ballots. Seriously.By: Josh Wolford - November 6, 2012
I know you’re excited about voting. It’s not only our democratic right and duty, but it’s a privilege. Quick tip: If you want to convince yourself of the importance of voting, just imagine for a second that you were unable to vote. Or prohibited. Still not convinced? What’s your reason for not voting? Whatever your excuse, I guarantee it sucks.
But excited and proud as you are, you should probably refrain from posting pictures of your ballots on social media. Unless you want to open yourself up to some sticky legal situations. If that’s the case, feel free to proceed.
Go to Instagram (or Webstagram, if you’re on a desktop) and hashtag search for #vote or #ballot. Chances are, you’ll see plenty of sepia-toned photos of people’s ballots. I’m sure you can find plenty of Facebook and Twitter as well.
These people could be violating the law. Here’s what the Citizen Media Law Project has to say about it in a great blog post about Documenting your vote:
If you want to take photographs or shoot video inside your polling place, you must be cautious to avoid violating the law. Election laws are serious business – you could be removed from the polling place and even subject to criminal penalties. Some states like Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, and Texas expressly prohibit the use of photographic and recording equipment inside polling places. In addition, a majority of states have laws prohibiting the disclosure of your own marked ballot, although the details of these laws vary significantly.
Murky details. Varying statutes. State-by-state discrepancies. Sounds icky. The safest course of action is probably keeping your phone in your pocket until after you cast your vote. But if you really want to create photo evidence of you performing your civic duty, CMLP has a great chart that looks at photo/video recording laws as they apply to elections.
They currently mark 29 states as outright prohibiting photos or filming of one’s own marked ballot. Another 9 states have “unclear” laws about it.
Some laws directly tackle displaying marked ballots on the internet, while others paint a broad brush and outlaw exhibition of completed ballots to any other person. Take for instance Alaska’s statute:
“[A] voter may not exhibit the voter’s ballot to an election official or any other person so as to enable any person to ascertain how the voter marked the ballot.”
I’m pretty sure tweeting out an Instagrammed photo inside the booth would apply here.
There are plenty of times to get out your iPhone and record what’s happening around you. If you see voter interference or intimidation outside a polling place – document it. But it’s probably best to leave your ballot out of your gleeful election day social media posts.