(Fort Wayne) News-Sentinel
Voters in New York may soon have the same right as voters in Indiana to click off a selfie in the voting booth to proudly show friends and family on Facebook or other social media how they voted.
A New York state law that makes it a misdemeanor to show a marked election ballot to others is unconstitutional and a violation of the First Amendment, according to a lawsuit brought as people increasingly look for ways to express their political opinions over the Internet.
Federal courts have struck down bans in Indiana and New Hampshire, and recently, a judge in Michigan blocked enforcement of a ban on ballot selfies. All of the judges cited free speech considerations.
It is a measure of how new this issue is that there is nowhere near a consensus in the states. According to a survey by The Associated Press, you’re free to take out your camera and snap away in 19 states and the District of Columbia. In 18 states, it’s best to leave your phone in your pocket while at the polls. In the 13 remaining states, the status of ballot selfie is a bit unclear.
And truth be told, there is a compelling argument on each side of the debate.
On the pro-ban side, it is a good way to help stop vote buying. Typically, people being paid in vote-buying schemes would be required to show proof that they voted the way they were paid to vote; one way to do this is to snap a picture in the voting booth.
“Just because we haven’t had vote buying as a clear issue today, that is definitely an issue from the past,” said Indiana state Sen. Pete Miller, R-Brownsburg, author of the bill thrown out by the court here. “We don’t want to say, ‘No one’s vote buying, so we’ll just not do anything.’ ”
On the lift-the-ban side is the ability of social media to encourage more voter participation, which the electoral process desperately needs. If there are voters so excited about their vote that they want to share it, that’s an easy way to spark enthusiasm in others.
The pro-ban argument, it seems to us, is weaker. If, as claimed, vote selling has gone on before, there were ways to prove the vote long before selfies came along. So the First Amendment Right to express ourselves in the political process should prevail, especially since it comes with such a positive side effect.