Snapchatters may be relieved to know that last week the “mobile storytelling app” stood up to support your right to take selfies in a voting booth. The “ballot selfie” case arises out of New Hampshire, where a judge last year struck down a ban on ballot box photography, finding the ban curbed First Amendment free speech rights.
Snapchat disagrees with the ban, so filed an amicus brief last week. This is the first time the five-year-old company has independently filed such a brief. But snaps are Snapchat’s bread and butter, so it should be no wonder that the company likened the ballot box selfie to “I voted” stickers of the past and says bans on ballot booth photography are outdated, impractical, and impossible to enforce.
No Photos, Please!
But prohibitions on behavior at the ballot box exist around the country, as CNN reports, and the range between states in what is allowed is quite wide. Some states do allow voters to take a photo. New York, for example, allows it but suggests doing so before filling out the ballot. Meanwhile, California does not allow photography in voting booths or polling places and Pennsylvania reserves the right to fine or jail a person who takes a picture in a voting booth, up to a year! Wisconsin charges the act as a felony.
Prohibitions on behavior at voting locations is meant to safeguard the integrity of votes, ensuring that what goes in the ballot box is what voters wanted rather than coerced. Snapchat argues that the laws were created when there was concern about buying votes, a notion that the company says is now impractical.
Laura Packard, a digital strategist for non-profits and Democratic political campaigns, agrees with Snapchat. She told the International Business Times, “It’s a completely different era now. We just have a culture shift where people are used to taking selfies and photographing their lives as they live them. Even if there’s a law on the books saying selfies are illegal, they’re not going to stop.”
For those who document their every move on social media, there may be no reason to vote if they can’t show involvement, themselves in the process. Whether it’s worth facing felony charges for this if you’re in Wisconsin, say, may depend on your generation and how passionately you feel about snapchatting.