LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com/AP) — A California state lawmaker wants to make sure you have the right to take a ballot “selfie” while casting your vote next Election Day.
Assemblymember Marc Levine (D-Marin County) announced Monday he will work to pass legislation that legalize ballot selfies – a digital image of a voter’s ballot – as a way of encouraging civic participation and getting younger voters to the polls.
Currently, several sections of California law arguably prohibit ballot selfies, including section 14291 of the state Elections Code, which reads: “After the ballot is marked, a voter shall not show it to any person in such a way as to reveal its contents.”
While the law appears to prohibit a voter from taking a ballot selfie and posting it on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or other social media, Levine says a recent U.S. District Court decision indicates that this California law is likely unconstitutional as it denies a voter her First Amendment right of free speech.
“The ballot selfie is protected political speech. Elections officials must demonstrate public harm through nefarious use of ballot selfies before denying voters their First Amendment rights,” said Levine. “I encourage California voters to exercise their right to political speech.”
U.S. District Court Judge Paul Barbadoro ruled in August that a New Hampshire law banning disclosure of one’s ballot is unconstitutional.
Under the law, posting a photo of a completed ballot was a violation punishable by a fine of up to $1,000. It was supported by the state Secretary of State’s office.
The judge also found that the ballot selfie is a form of political speech that can be restricted only by meeting the highest standard of constitutional scrutiny.
The American Civil Liberties Union-New Hampshire brought the case on behalf of three people who were investigated after posting ballot photos last year, including one voter who said he cast a ballot for his dead dog because he didn’t like any of the candidates, the Associated Press reported.
The legislation is expected to be introduced in January when the state legislature comes back into session.
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