You Could Face a Misdemeanor If You Post a ‘Ballot Selfie’ in New York
As more New Yorkers send in absentee and mail-in ballots ahead of Election Day this year, more people are posting seemingly-harmless selfies that could get them in hot water with state law.
'Ballot Selfies' are starting to pop up on social media feeds, showing people posing and smiling with their finished ballots. However, in New York, and many other states across the country, sharing a photo of a filled-out ballot is actually illegal and could land violators a misdemeanor.
The New York law that bans 'ballot selfies' dates back to the 1890s, more than a century before selfies became a fad. According to CaseText, N.Y. Elec. Law § 17–130(10) states that "any person who...shows [their] ballot after it is prepared for voting, to any person so as to reveal the contents" will be guilty of a misdemeanor.
The law was challenged in 2017 during Silberberg v. Bd.. of Election of N.Y., but U.S. District Judge Kevin Castel upheld the law's constitutionality, writing that the law was "narrowly tailored" enough to not violate the First Amendment and leave voters other options on how to exercise free speech regarding elections.
"There is no doubt that a ballot selfie is a potent form of speech in that it sends a strong message that the individual in the photograph submitted the marked ballot depicted in the photograph,” Castel wrote, according to Reuters. “But other forms of visual display of candidate support may be as compelling or nearly as compelling without the attendant dangers.”
While it is illegal to post a picture of a completed ballot, voters are free to share pictures showing their voting envelopes or sporting candidate apparel or 'I Voted' stickers.
But remember, don't show up to the polls in candidate-specific attire. You'll end up having to cover up or remove the apparel, and you'll need to leave the polling place immediately after voting.
Many states have implemented laws prohibiting ballot selfies to discourage coercion, bribery and vote-buying and to protect voters' right to a secret ballot, according to Business Insider. A total of 19 states currently ban photos of marked ballots: Alabama, Alaska, Illinois, Georgia, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont and Wisconsin.
Other states have fuzzy or differing laws regarding ballot selfies, so make sure you know where your state stands before you click 'post.'