Hawaii House lawmakers passed a bill Tuesday explicitly supporting a voter’s right to take a selfie showing their marked ballot, even in the voting booth. The bill, which had already cleared the Senate, now heads to Gov. David Ige for his signature.
House Bill 27 allows voters to share a photograph of their marked ballot on social media; by contrast, most states ban the use of smart phones in voting booths.
Speaking on the House floor in support of the bill, Rep. Takashi Ohno joked about millennials’ need to use social media. Just as one might ask if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound, he asked, if millennials go into a voting booth and can’t post selfies with their ballots, did they actually vote?
Tuesday’s action comes after a case last fall in which a federal judge struck down a New Hampshire law that would have imposed a $1,000 fine on voters who shared a photo of their ballot, according to The Huffington Post.
Critics of ballot selfies say that allowing photos in the voting booth could make it easier for vote-buyers to obtain proof of how a person voted or violate the privacy of other voters nearby.
But executives at Snapchat, a social media platform known for photo and video sharing that racks up billions of video views every day, don’t buy that argument, saying there’s no evidence that has ever happened.
Snapchat representatives filed a 27-page amicus brief to express support for overturning the New Hampshire law. Company officials said in a statement that its news team, which relies on users for content, has been sent thousands of photos and videos by people in voting booths. Snapchat users may provide perspectives that credentialed political reporters cannot, they said.
To ban these selfies across the board would be a First Amendment violation, they said.
The social media giant also said that historically, elections have been a social affair, and that “ballot selfies” are a modern-day extension of this tradition. It argued that two-thirds of those on social media engage in political or civic action on their accounts. Snapchat officials cited a study that found 22 percent of social media users post how they vote online.
“A ballot selfie — like a campaign button — is a way to express support for or against a cause or candidate,” officials wrote in a brief. “And because it is tangible proof of how a voter has voted, a ballot selfie is a uniquely powerful form of political expression.”
At least three other states — Arizona, Utah and Oregon — also have passed laws explicitly allowing ballot selfies. A few other states, such as Washington and Wyoming, don’t prohibit photography at the polls as long as it isn’t disruptive.
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