Debates Over Ballot Selfies Clash with the Ideals of Secret Polling

The selfie has become part of our culture of sharing. But should some things, like the ballot, remain private?

Selfies are a fact of life. We share ourselves in various scenarios and locales, and at events to communicate our achievements (no matter how small) to our social networks. But NPR's Josh Rogers reports there's some controversy over whether or not selfies should be allowed in the ballot boxes of New Hampshire.

There's a battle raging in the state that's holding the first presidential primary over whether or not selfies of ballots should be legal. New Hampshire's Secretary of State Bill Gardner, who is against updating an old law in order to legalize selfie ballots, argues that posting these pictures tramples on an American ideal: the sanctity of the secret ballot. Anything that compromises privacy in the ballot booth is a hard limit for Gardner, and he cites past instances were voters' privacy was invaded as his argument:

"I have a copy of the last ballot that was used when Saddam Hussein was elected, and that ballot identified who the person was. Hitler did the same thing in Austria.”

Those that stand for the legalization of posting selfie ballots, like Brandon Ross, a patent lawyer, think Gardner's comparison goes too far. Gilles Bissonnette of the New Hampshire ACLU agrees that we should find other ways to prevent voter tampering, but banning selfies isn't the way to do it.

What people may not realize is that back in the late 1800s, purchasing votes was widespread. People would bring in their ballot to show the riggers they voted for “their guy” and, in turn, the people would be compensated with cash or booze. Today, you don't need to vote for a particular candidate, but some companies have been known to compensate people with a free cup of coffee just for showing an “I Voted” sticker. Even this form of “bribery” is technically illegal in some states.

In 35 states, it's illegal to photograph or film your marked ballot, though, it's not heavily enforced. What's more, some states prohibit the use of recording equipment in polling stations — a measure to protect other people's privacy.

Americans remain fortunate in that there's no immediate threat to our right to vote. So, do you think states should lift the legal restrictions on selfie ballots? Should we restrict photographs in polling stations? Sound off in the comments below.

Read more about the dispute at NPR.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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