|A polling station in Nashua, New Hampshire. Photo by Mark Buckawicki via Wikimedia Commons|
A law prohibiting New Hampshire voters from taking self-portraits with their ballots has been deemed unfair. Taking self-portraits with your ballot markings in a voting booth has been illegal in that state since 2014 and punishable by a fine of up to $1,000. The law was put in place to avoid potential vote-buying schemes. Politicians feared that the ballots in the images could be used for tracking and verifying influenced votes.
This law has now deemed to be unfair and in violation of the First Amendment by the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston, which has upheld a lower court ruling. The court acknowledged the reasons for implementing the legislation but said in the ruling it felt there was a ‘substantial mismatch between New Hampshire’s objectives and ballot-selfie prohibition,’ and that ‘the restrictions on speech’ were ‘antithetical to democratic values.’
Ballot selfies are regulated in different ways across the US. A total of 26 states prohibit them explicitly through various laws, such as bans on cameras in polling places. In 9 states, now including New Hampshire and Oregon they are allowed and in the remaining states the law is unclear. The court ruling in Boston only has an impact in New Hampshire but hopefully other states will follow, as harmonized laws across the nation would provide some much-needed clarity on the subject.