Ballot Selfies

Selfies are a remarkably popular activity that was enhanced by smart phone manufacturers when they placed a second camera that faces toward the user on the device. People take selfies of any experience and every activity in their lives and quickly post them to social media to let the friends (and the world) know what they've done, created or even destroyed.

One place where a person may run into a problem is taking a selfie in the voting booth to show everyone on a social media site who the person voted for. Many voters are proud of who they supported and voted for in an election and want to post a selfie showing their ballot to publicize the commitment to a candidate and encourage friends to do the same.

Many states prohibit this. These states reason that a person could be coerced into voting for a particular candidate and a ballot selfie is taken to confirm the person voted as ordered.

Laws preventing ballot selfies have created a conflict between the First Amendment free speech rights of the selfie-taker and the desire of states to ensure all elections are free of fraud and that no votes were "bought."

In November 2016, New Hampshire's law barring ballot selfies was declared unconstitutional by the 1st US Circuit Court of Appeals. But then, just this fall (September 2017), a federal district court ruled that a New York City law banning photographs of completed ballots could stand and the minimal free speech restrictions by the narrowly defined law are reasonable to ensure election integrity.

Part 1) Find out what the laws regarding ballot selfies are in the state or country where you would vote.

  • Research arguments on both sides of the issue.

  • Which side of the issue (Free Speech versus Election Integrity) are you on and why?

  • Write your answer in a manner to persuade someone with an opposing point view.

Part 2) Consider the following:

Most of us live in countries with a stable government and election system. In the fall of 2017, the Kenyan Supreme Court nullified that country's August elections because there was ample evidence of possible election fraud. A new runoff election was scheduled for October.

  • Perform additional research on the 2017 Kenyan election and a few other elections where there were accusations of election fraud. 

  • How would allowing ballot selfies in this election have supported the claims of election fraud?

  • How would allowing ballot selfies potentially have prevented election fraud?

  • Should the political environment be considered when balancing free speech and election integrity? Why or why not? (In answering this, think about when free speech is most important and when it is typically most restricted.)