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Federal Court to Lift Ban on Voting Booth Selfies

By Kelsey Davis; News Editor
On October 6, 2016

Federal Court to Lift Ban on Voting Booth Selfies

 

Kelsey Davis

News Editor

kldavis3@plymouth.edu

It is legal to take a selfie in the voting booth in the state of New Hampshire, for now. In late September, the Federal Appellate Court repealed the New Hampshire ban on the so called “ballot selfie”. Since 1979, it has been illegal to share the ballot or an individual’s vote with anyone else. In 2014, the law was amended to include taking pictures of the ballot and sharing it on social media sites.

The purpose of the ban on selfies was to cut down on voter buying and voter coercion. The state’s Secretary of State Bill Gardner defended the ban, saying that the “ballot selfies” would encourage not only voter fraud, but also voter “buying”, where the picture taken would be proof of a vote cast for a specific person. No evidence of such acts were presented during the case, but Gardner defended the ban, saying that it was protection from future instances. He is quoted as saying “It’s part of what a lot of people fought and died for. The right to have a free and independent vote and not to be fearful of being able to vote that way.” Anyone convicted of breaking the law would be fined up to one thousand dollars.

Three New Hampshire voters were fined for taking selfies in the voting booth, and the three of them decided to appeal the law, which ended with the repeal. According to court documents, one of the voters took a selfie within the booth because he did not like the Republican nominees, and instead wrote in “Akira”, the name of his recently deceased dog.

The three-panel court voted unanimously to repeal the law, with Judge Sandra Lynch saying the ban is like “burn[ing down] the house to roast the pig.” Lynch continued to say “New Hampshire may not impose such a broad restriction on speech by banning ballot selfies in order to combat an unsubstantiated and hypothetical danger. We repeat the old adage: ‘A picture is worth a thousand words.’”

Twenty-six states ban the usage of cameras within voting booths. The state of New Hampshire will be able to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. It is unclear at this time what the decision will be. 

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