A New Hampshire court ruled that banning voting-booth selfies is unconstitutional
Schedule an early November haircut now because a federal court has ruled that taking a selfie with your ballot is totally OK.
Three judges on the First Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously upheld a lower court’s ruling that a New Hampshire law banning voting booth selfies was unconstitutional.
This is the first time a federal court has ruled on such a law, which is bad news for the 26 other states with bans on taking Election Day photos.
“New Hampshire may not impose such a broad restriction on speech by banning ballot selfies in order to combat an unsubstantiated and hypothetical danger,” Judge Sandra L. Lynch wrote in her ruling. “We repeat the old adage: ‘a picture is worth a thousand words.’”
This isn’t some arcane interpretation of an old forgotten ordinance. The New Hampshire Legislature in 2014 took time out of their busy schedule yelling at middle school students to update an ordinance that bans photos of ballots to include “taking a digital image or photograph of his or her marked ballot and distributing or sharing the image via social media.” Violating the law can carry a fine of up to $1,000
Both the original 1970s law and its 2014 update were meant to discourage vote buying. The idea is that if someone is paying you to vote for a particular candidate, they will want photographic proof of the deed. That’s a pretty serious crime, but generally conspiracies to rig elections prefer that participants not broadcast the evidence on social media.
The lawsuit became necessary after the state’s attorney general’s office began an investigation into two people who posted photos of their ballots on social media during local elections in 2014. One of those people, state Rep. Leon Rideout, specifically did so with the intention of challenging the law, although the photo he posted on Twitter would not be considered a selfie by most reasonable people.
The other selfie came from a man who wrote in his dead dog as a candidate after he decided he didn’t like any of the options available.
New Hampshire has not yet indicated whether or not it will appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court. If they don’t, this ruling could set precedent that ends up unraveling some of the 25 bans on selfies and other photos in states around the country.