Keen to show their civic pride, Americans are posting photos of their completed ballots on social media sites. Only problem: That's illegal in many states
As the rest of this presidential campaign has played out through mediums like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, so goes Election Day, apparently. But some poll workers cried foul on Tuesday and began confiscating voters' phones when hundreds and hundreds of photos of completed election ballots began making their way to photo-sharing site Instagram and social networks like Twitter and Facebook. A number of states prohibit citizens from photographing completed ballots, and some even ban any kind of recording equipment from polling places. In states where "I Voted" stickers aren't distributed, however, some voters argue that the ballot snapshot is the only real way — in this increasingly social world — to prove to their friends and followers that they've fulfilled their ultimate civic duty. Here, a guide:
Wait, I can't even take a photo of my own ballot?
They don't call it a secret ballot for nothing. Voting really shouldn't be like every other "activity in your shallow, overshared life," says Josh Fruhlinger at Wonkette. Rules that bar you from photographing and disseminating your completed ballot (or anyone else's) or prohibit you from using recording devices in polling places are in place to protect you "from having a boss or some other person in authority over you" demand that you take a picture of your ballot, "so they can fire you when you don’t vote for Romney."
How do I find out the rules in my state?
The Citizen Media Law Project lays it all out for you on its website. More than half of the states prohibit taking pictures of your own ballot. Going further, says Lauren Goode at All Things D, states such as Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Nevada, and Texas also expressly forbid the use of "recording equipment," period, inside polling booths.
What happens if I'm caught?
You could be removed from your polling place, and in the event that poll workers think you are trying to do something illegal — such as selling your vote — your vote could be nullified.
Why is this taken so seriously?
Because of isolated incidents of voter coercion in the past, says Laura Leslie at WRAL.com. Several years ago, in one state, "vote-sellers were given cell phones and told to take a picture of their completed ballots to prove they had earned their payment."
What if I need my phone for ballot information?
Voter Brad Bell in North Carolina, which prohibits use of all recording devices in polling places, was told to put his phone away when he tried to use it to get information about his candidates on Tuesday. Bell was able to go into a back room and write the info on a piece of paper, and then cast his ballot. "Ultimately, I got to exercise my right to vote, albeit with some hassle," Bell said.
Other stories from this topic:
- World Reactions: Election Day in America: The world reacts
- The List: 3 ways the presidential election could drag on past Election Day
- Analysis: How Obama and Romney are spending Election Day: A guide