Election day is near and photos of people casting their ballots have already started to flow onto social media. But, depending on what state you live in, that voting selfie might be illegal
There are some issues which only come around every four years. Election day is near and photos of people casting their ballots have already started to flow onto social media. But, depending on what state you live in, that voting selfie might be illegal.
Justin Timberlake took a selfie in a voting booth in Memphis, Tennessee in an attempt to get people excited about the voting process. Instead, his gesture reignited a recent debate surrounding photographing oneself voting.
For Timberlake, technically, Tennessee law forbids voters from using phones “for telephone conversations, recording, or taking photographs or videos while inside the polling place." However, voting selfies of mail-in ballots are a legal gray area in this state.
As for the other 49 states… some have some concrete language describing the use of cellphones, photography, and/or the sharing of voter choices.
Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota, Wisconsin.
Connecticut, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wyoming.
Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Iowa, Maryland, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, West Virginia, Tennessee.
Why it’s illegal in some states
Some have argued ballot selfies should be protected under free speech. However, for some states, the argument isn’t about speech, but protecting the process and the privacy of the people participating. The reason these laws were enacted long ago was to prevent vote-buying. A photograph is proof.
But many see vote-buying as a thing of the past, and that any vote-buying would be overshadowed by the enormously encouraging effect vote-sharing can have on a community. Snapchat argued, in a recent court case attempting to overturn New Hampshire’s ban on ballot selfies, “It is precisely because a ballot selfie proves how a voter has exercised her franchise that it is an unmatched expression of civic engagement. There is, simply put, no substitute for this speech.”
There’s evidence to suggest sharing whether or not you voted can affect turnout. A recent Facebook experiment suggests how sharing the simple fact that “I voted” can influence others to vote. “Our study shows that the truth is somewhere in between: online networks are powerful... but it is those real-world ties that we have always had that are making a difference,” says James Fowler, a political scientist at the University of California, San Diego.
The polls are in, and what will be the deciding factor in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election is something a little more human.
Education is not the main difference between supporters of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
A survey of reader comments in The New York Times found that the ideological divide between voters is more complicated. For starters, while people with more education usually vote for liberal policies, that does not guarantee they’ll vote for Clinton. That first bit of news comes from a Pew Research poll taken earlier this year. The common wisdom is that “highly educated” voters, or people who have obtained at least a college degree, “are far more likely than those with less education to take predominantly liberal positions across a range of political values.” That seems proven true by polls like this one:
But that doesn’t mean they always do. Look at that chart: while “more than half of those with postgraduate experience (54%) have either consistently liberal political values (31%) or mostly liberal values (23%),” according to Pew, there are just as many mostly conservative voters with a college degree as there are without one. The total amount of conservative voters in that chart is incredibly close among voters with all kinds of education. That means that education alone is not a factor for changing voter preference -- even though it does lean very heavily toward liberal.
More impressively, the people with the least amount of education vote for a mixed platform far more often than any other group. As Pew explains, “Larger shares take a mix of liberal and conservative positions: Roughly half of those with no more than a high school education (48%) are ideologically mixed, along with 36% of those with some college experience. By contrast, only about a quarter of more educated Americans have ideologically mixed views.” Given the increasing polarization of voter ideologies, this makes this voting demographic arguably the most centrist.
On the other hand, people are voting more consistently with their ideology than they ever have before, according to a 2014 Pew Research Report on political polarization. And it’s only getting worse:
“Much of the growth in ideological consistency has come among better educated adults,” Pew explains, “including a striking rise in the share who have across-the-board liberal views, which is consistent with the growing share of postgraduates who identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party.” However, as with the previous chart, that consistency works both ways. “Among postgrads and college graduates, the shares expressing consistently conservative views have also grown since 2004, from 4% to 10% among postgrads and from 4% to 11% among college graduates. But among both groups, consistently conservative views are at about the same levels as they had been in 1994.” Regardless of how much education voters have, voters of both ideologies are voting more consistently with their party line than they have in the last 20 years.
But not in this election.
Race and gender complicate the usual tendencies of the educated voter demographic. While Bloomberg reports that, “Clinton leads by an average of 12.3 percentage points among white college graduates,” according to its poll data, she suffers with less educated white voters:
Credit: The New York Times
Those numbers might appear to support Pew’s numbers from earlier, but they don’t tell the whole story. “A TargetSmart/William & Mary poll released Tuesday showed 28% of early Florida voters picked Clinton over GOP nominee Donald Trump,” reports The Hill. If voters are voting along party lines more than ever, according to Pew, then why such a dramatic split? Especially in a state where votes are historically evenly split? The change is unprecedented -- but it may be explained by personality.
Clinton and Trump are the most unlikeable presidential candidates in modern memory. While conservative voters of all demographics are not warm to Clinton – especially given her inability to meaningfully apologize for the Benghazi email scandal that, like the zombie apocalypse, will never die. But they are voting for her. High-profile Republicans are endorsing Clinton all over the country. Why? They fear Trump. Donald Trump is quite possibly the most divisive candidate ever and, according to poll company Gallup, has the highest unfavorable rating among voters of all demographics ever recorded.
While education may not be a critical factor in this election, personality certainly is.
If Donald Trump's political strategies look familiar, says Tim Wu, it's because we've seen them before. Where? In the totalitarian regimes of China, North Korea, and Germany.
On November 2nd, Columbia law professor Tim Wu tweeted: "What is the political press going to do for ratings after this blockbuster election winds down?" It’s a funny question, but a serious reflection on the disturbing amount of coverage the Republican candidate has enjoyed. The U.S. has a private media, but the coverage has been skewed one way, and even in his most controversial moments Trump has mostly profited from the millions of dollars of free advertising he has received. Every time you turn on the TV or head to a website’s home page you see one person. Wu draws an interesting parallel between this phenomenon and totalitarian regimes, like North Korea where everywhere you look you see the Great Leader, or China in the ‘60s, where Mao’s face was omnipresent. Trump is inescapable.
It’s just one of the strategies the candidate shares with fascist regimes – and before we go any further, Wu is clear that he is not comparing Trump’s views to those of fascist leaders; he is highlighting the similarity of their methods.
Wu’s latest book The Attention Merchants is an ethnography of advertising culture, examining the way external forces and agendas creep into our minds and influence us – a practice politics is also deeply tied into. Trump is, as Wu says, a "master attention merchant", and upon breaking down his strategy it turns out he understands something many fascist leaders in the past have also understood: the best way to attract attention and inspire intensity in your audience is to make them afraid. Trump has tapped into the unconscious fears and hatreds of his supporters by overstating the danger the United States is in, and creating enemies much greater than reality supports. "If you study carefully the rise of the Third Reich, it is fascinating how well the speakers of the Third Reich targeted unconscious, unspoken but truly present fears, hatreds, powerful emotions, you know, far beyond the thinking mind," says Wu. "And I think that those techniques whether or not you’re a Nazi or Hitler, whatever you are, are effective for anyone who wants to captivate their audience and inspire an angry rally."
Tim Wu’s most recent book is The Attention Merchants The Epic Scramble to Get Inside Our Heads.