When pop star Justin Timberlake snapped a photo of himself inside a voting booth in Tennessee last month, he likely never thought he was breaking the law. However, hours after he posted the “ballot selfie” on Instagram, Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett issued a statement reminding Tennesseans that state law prohibits taking photos inside polling places.
While the local prosecutor in Shelby County, TN subsequently decided not to pursue charges against Timberlake, the whole incident serves as a great lesson to everyone to check their own state laws on “ballot selfies” before heading to the polls on Election Day.
LawNewz.com has made that search a little easier by breaking down “ballot selfie” laws in every state.
Ballot Selfies Are Prohibited by State Law:
- Alabama – A Secretary of State spokesman told the AP the state recognizes voters have “a right to cast a ballot in secrecy and private,” so taking photos is prohibited.
- Alaska – State law prohibits voters from showing marked ballots, but state election officials say they have no practical way to enforce the law.
- Florida – State law prohibits taking photos inside polling places. A county election supervisor suggests Florida voters should only take a picture of their “I Voted” sticker after exiting the polling location.
- Georgia – State law prohibits photos of ballots or the screens of electronic voting machines.
- Illinois — State law prohibits “knowingly” marking your ballot so that another person can see it. Violation of the law is classified as a felony, punishable by up to three years in prison.
- Michigan — A state law prohibiting photos of ballots was recently upheld by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.
- Mississippi – State law prohibits showing a marked ballot to others.
- Nevada – State law prohibits taking photos inside a polling place, with an exception for media outlets. The law also prohibits taking photos of mail-in ballots.
- New Jersey – State law prohibits showing a completed ballot to others. A new law is working its way through the state legislature that would make it legal to post ballot photos in social media, but it will not be enacted until after Election Day.
- New York – A federal judge recently upheld a state law that bars voters from taking photos showing a completed ballot or indicating how a person voted.
- New Mexico – State law prohibits showing a marked ballot to others, but there is no penalty provision in the statute. A state election director recently told a local newspaper that it would be hard to enforce the law.
- North Carolina – State law prohibits photos or recordings of a marked ballot.
- South Carolina – State law prohibits voters from allowing their ballot to be viewed by others. Additionally, the state attorney general issued an opinion in 2012 stating the law also makes it illegal to reproduce a ballot by taking a photo or video recording.
- South Dakota – Photos or recordings of ballots are illegal in the state because they can be considered as a means of influencing the vote. The secretary of state has also expressed concern that ballot photos may be used to illegally force someone to provide proof of voting.
- Wisconsin – State law prohibits voters from sharing photos of ballots.
Ballot Selfies Are Legal Under State Law:
- Connecticut — No state law prohibits ballot selfies.
- District of Columbia — No law prohibits ballot selfies.
- Hawaii — State law allows sharing digital photos of ballots.
- Idaho — No state law prohibits ballot selfies.
- Indiana — No state law prohibits ballot selfies.
- Kansas — State elections director Brian Caskey released an opinion last week that ballot selfies are legal in the state. Caskey determined the state law prohibiting the disclosure of a ballot’s contents only applies to election officials.
- Kentucky — State attorney general says ballot selfies are legal in the state.
- Louisiana — No state law prohibits ballot selfies.
- Maine — No state law prohibits voters from posting photos of completed ballots.
- Minnesota — State law allows ballot photos, so long as no one else is visible in the photo. Ballot photos cannot be shared with anyone else inside the polling station.
- Montana — No state law prohibits ballot selfies.
- Nebraska — State law was changed in 2016 to allow ballot selfies.
- New Hampshire — Ballot selfies are legal after the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a state law prohibiting ballot selfies as unconstitutional in September.
- North Dakota — State law allows taking photos inside polling places.
- Oregon — Voting is done through mail-in ballots and no state law prohibits photos of ballots.
- Rhode Island — The state board of elections adopted new rules for the 2016 election to allow photos inside polling places.
- Utah — A new law passed in 2015 made ballot selfies legal in the state.
- Vermont — No state law prohibits photos inside polling places.
- Virginia — The state attorney general recently issued an opinion stating ballot selfies are legal.
- Washington — No state law prohibits ballot selfies, but state officials discourage the practice.
- Wyoming — No state law prohibits ballot selfies or posting photos of your ballot online.
Legality of Ballot Selfies is an Open Question, Use Caution:
- Arizona — State law prohibits taking photographs within 75 feet of a polling location. However, there is no prohibition on taking photos of early mail-in ballots.
- Arkansas — No state law specifically prohibits photos inside polling locations, but it may be illegal to share your voting choices.
- California — A new state law allowing ballot selfies does not go into effect until after the November election. However, state officials have suggested they will no longer enforce the existing prohibition on ballot selfies.
- Colorado — Last week a federal judge ruled a state law prohibiting taking pictures of one’s ballot was unconstitutional. However, the court said its decision does not apply to bans on taking photos inside polling places.
- Delaware — State law prohibits using a cellphone inside the voting booth, but the law is not strictly enforced.
- Iowa — State law prohibits the use of cellphone inside the voting booth, but photos of mail-in absentee ballots are allowed.
- Maryland — State law prohibits the use of electronic devices inside polling places, but photos of mail-in ballots are allowed.
- Massachusetts – A state law on the books has nothing to do with “ballot selfies” per se, but taking a photo of a completed ballot would likely be considered the same as making an illegal copy of a completed ballot. However, a spokesman for the Secretary of the Commonwealth said a recent decision by the First Circuit Court of Appeals seemingly makes this law difficult to enforce.
- Missouri — State law prohibits a voter from “allowing his ballot to be seen by any person with the intent of letting it be known how he is about to vote or has voted.” However, the issue of selfies is less clear. A spokesperson for the secretary of state’s office voters should check with their local election authority before snapping a picture of their ballot to make sure they’re not violating Missouri election law.”
- Ohio — State law prohibits showing a marked ballot to others “with the apparent intention of letting it be known how the elector is about to vote.” However, a spokesman for the secretary of state admitted that it is unclear how that law (written nearly 20 years ago) applies to social media.
- Oklahoma — No state law specifically bands taking ballot selfies, but the state election secretary said state law prohibits disclosing your vote inside a polling place. Bottom line: be careful about posting ballot selfies in Oklahoma and definitely do not do hit send from inside a polling place.
- Pennsylvania — There is no state law on the books prohibiting ballot selfies, but individual counties are allowed to prohibit taking photos inside polling places.
- Tennessee — Justin Timberlake taught us all that ballot selfies are prohibited under state law, but it also appears that Tennessee authorities are not inclined to dedicate resources to enforcing the law. State law is less clear with respect to mail-in ballots.
- West Virginia — State law prohibits using electronic devices inside the voting booth, but photos of mail-in ballots are not prohibited by state law.
[image via Alexandru Nika/shutterstock]