Snapchat is fighting for your right to take selfies in the voting booth

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If that’s how the USA has to fight “voter apathy”, then I’m all for it.


Yea, I can kind of see the remote possibility somebody would intimidate voters, demand they vote for Trump (for example) and then demand photographic evidence.

Pretty slim likelihood, but then, so is voter fraud.


Oh come on, what kind of candidate would demand a pledge of loyalty like th—

Oh yeah.


There are a few good arguments for banning polling-place photography, the most serious and obvious of which is that my “selfie” could easily capture an image of your otherwise secret ballot, along with your face. As creepers the world over know, there are cameras on both sides of your phone now. Are we going to have poll workers checking after each click?

I’m not saying that it’s a slam-dunk case, but it’s definitely one of those situations where the balance between your First Amendment rights and the public interest in fair and orderly elections is a pretty close one. I mean, is Snapchat also challenging the rule that says a campaign worker can’t follow you through the line and lecture you on the virtues of her candidate all the way through the voting process? That, too, is a form of free speech and civic engagement that would be permitted anywhere else but is banned at the polling place. Again, I’m not saying it’s exactly the same thing, or that ballot-selfies will bring down the Republic, but it’s NOT a simple matter of this being some bullshit antiquated technicality that should have been swept away with the Whigs.


Yea, I can kind of see the remote possibility somebody would intimidate voters, demand they vote for Trump (for example) and then demand photographic evidence.

Or more likely - especially in local races - someone will bribe voters to vote for them, and then pay out once the voter provides proof of the vote. See: Prosecutors look into vote-buying allegations in Chicago

Allowing pictures of a filled-in ballot is a very bad idea.


I don’t see how a ballot selfie is any different than telling other people who you voted for, which you’re already allowed to do. Unlike campaigning at the polling place, it doesn’t seem possible for posting a photo of your ballot to exert any undue influence on other people’s attitudes or opinions before they themselves go to the voting booth. If it’s to eliminate the potential for voter intimidation as @Boundegar suggested, I agree with them that it’s almost entirely an imagined threat, and this ban doesn’t actually address the root of that problem. If someone wants to intimidate (or bribe) me into voting for someone, banning me from taking a photo of my ballot isn’t going to stop them from doing so (and in the Chicago case cited, I don’t see any indication that the briber demanded evidence, just a commitment).

From the sound of it, though, this is about more than just taking pictures of your completed ballot. The end of the pull quote specifically mentions a journalism exemption from bans on taking any pictures at a polling place, which would seem to suggest an undue restriction on your freedom to even take a picture of yourself in such a way that indicated you were at a polling place. That is absolutely the 21st-century equivalent of the “I Voted!” button.

That restriction should be rescinded, provided you can guarantee in advance that no other persons will be included in your photo.


Of course those things are always hard to quantify and it is difficult to decide how much voter intimidation is too much, but I am not so sure the problem is entirely imaginary. I don’t think the main risk is organized large-scale intimidation. However I have certainly known people who would feel entitled to know how their spouses vote and people who hide their vote from those around them for one reason or another. And yes, I feel that inflationary use of frivolous absentee voting is a serious double-edged sword for the same reasons.

In East Germany there were voting booths and it was your right to vote in secret. The only problem was that you were expected to waive that right and proudly vote in the open and failure to do so was considered deeply suspicious and a sign of political unreliability.


But what seems possible to you, if it happened to you as you conceive of yourself and your situation, isn’t the standard here. I mean, personally, I don’t think I’d be “unduly influenced” by the hypothetical campaigner in my ear, but that doesn’t mean I think it should be allowed. The question is whether the incursion on my freedom to take pictures (which is itself not explicitly a constitutionally protected right, although my ability to publish them falls under the 1A) is outweighed by the benefits that would accrue to all voters who might be intimidated or influenced.

Whatever the courts decide here–and I don’t really have strong opinions on the outcome–that’s the question. Is your selfie worth the risk of disenfranchising someone else? That’d hinge on how many such people the courts thought there might be, how serious the risk was, and so forth. But whichever way the balancing act goes, it’s a legitimate question.

As for “imagined threats,” there are two kinds: the ones where the remedy is so harmless and easy that there’s no reason not to protect against the imagined threat, and the other kind. Voter fraud (schemes where one person tries to vote more than once, or when they’re not legally permitted to) is more imaginary than the Tooth Fairy, which is why the remedies–voter caging, pre-emptive last-minute purges of voting rolls, photo ID checks, etc.–are not really remedies. They manifestly do more damage than good, if in fact they do any good at all. But you could make the case that the “imaginary threat” of selfie abuse is actually more real than the “imaginary harm” that banning ballot-selfies would do.


Someone like an abusive spouse? I’m sure it happens many thousands of times every national election.


I really don’t think it’s even a little bit of an imagined threat - it was a huge mass-scale occurence in the US before the adoption of the secret ballot. As in, landlords would watch who their tenants voted for and those who voted wrong would be homeless the next day. Gangs would stake out roads to the polling place and beat people carrying the wrong ballot.


A brief argument against allowing photos of completed ballots:

Other documents with interesting data that can contribute to the argument:
Court decision that is being appealed (includes detailed history of problems with vote buying in US elections)
Law Review article on Vote Buying


I’m just now coding up an app for that.

Good, the Uber drivers will need new work when the self driving cars take over their work.


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I’m going to agree with “no selfies in the voting booth”. This will not prevent anyone from taking a selfie from in front of the building, inside the building, on line, etc. I see 2 problems with selfies.

  1. When there are a lot of people voting, the last thing I want is to wait longer to vote. If a person takes 10+ seconds to take a selfie (take picture, look at results, take another because they didn’t like it, put it on FB, Twitter, etc), multiplied by hundreds of people that will provide me with more time waiting in line.

  2. Having just read an article on the history of how we vote in the context of why Internet voting is a terrible idea (was that article on BoingBoing) I expect an increase in people being paid to vote a certain way because they will be able to provide evidence on how they voted. It took fully anonymous voting machines to remove both intimidation and bribes. Yes, I can say that I voted one way or the other but I can lie about it. I read enough stories last presidential election about businesses telling employees that they will be laid off if the bosses preferred candidate doesn’t win.


This would enable the buying and selling of votes - if you can prove who you voted for, it’ll be easier to get paid for voting for that person. Secret ballot is the standard for a reason.

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Should we be letting Friendster, sorry, MySpace, sorry Snapchat define what can be done in voting booths?

It’s just another ephemeral short-term thinking money-grubbing tech firm desperate for a profitable business model. That’s all they care about. They don’t care about vote buying, they’re fabulously rich. They’re insulated from such concerns.


I don’t find the involvement of Neal Katyal persuasive.

He’s a lawyer. If you pay a lawyer to make a legal argument, they’ll make that argument, even if it’s nonsense on stilts. Their job is to express the argument in a way that isn’t idiotic, preferably with some tissue of support from case law.


I’m not sure “free Starbucks gift cards in exchange for a Snapchat-documented Trump vote” is the way to go.