Tweeted Your Ballot? Some Voters May Have Broken the Law

November 7, 2012  |  

Casting a ballot at Su Nueva Laundromat in Chicago. Image: AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

Were you so excited about voting that you tweeted a picture of your ballot yesterday? In certain states, you might have broken the law.

At the polls on Election Day, many Instagram users uploaded their completed ballots. But it is only natural that folks did so in this day and age when we digitally document our every move. But laws against photographing or filming inside of a voting booth are there for a reason.

“[F]or one, the laws are in place to prevent people from selling their votes and taking a photo of the ballot as proof. Secondly, it’s to prevent voter intimidation,” reports Forbes. And it does carry a punishment of up to a year in jail, although, according to CNN, experts say actual prosecution is unlikely.

The laws are actually confusing on this issue. “We have 50 states, and they go in many different directions on this,” Jeff Hermes, director of the Citizen Media Law Project (CMLP) at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society told CNN.  “Some have no laws, some only concern particular times and places. And they all vary in terms of penalties attached.” CMLP actually compiled a chart  outlining the rules in each of the 50 states.

States, such as Rhode Island, have no problem with you posting photos of your ballot.

Anticipating the issue, there were some news reports prior to the Election Day about the potential legal problems voters may face when taking pics of their ballot. But some of it led to misinformation. Even Toni Braxton misunderstood. She tweeted Tuesday afternoon: “Make sure you guys don’t post pics of your ballot! They will be voided if you are caught, you don’t have to prove who you voted for! :)” While your vote could be voided in Hawaii and Michigan, other states have no such prohibitions. In fact, a Pew Research Center report found that 22 percent of registered voters did indeed tell others how they voted via posts on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

One major plus of the electronic age is that many people used it to report polling problems. AS CNN reports, “…one Pennsylvania voter’s YouTube video went viral on Tuesday after he captured an electronic voting machine that appeared to mark for Mitt Romney a vote he was trying to cast for President Obama. CNN later confirmed that the machine, located in Pennsylvania’s Perry County, was recalibrated after the voter pointed out the problem.”

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  • confused

    People actually vote inside laundromats?? Where they do that at! Lol

    • MLS2698

      That’s what I was thinking! The bottom of the pic says Chicago. Gotta meet the people where they are, huh? In my area, they were giving free flu shots at selected polls…… money any way you can! Wish it was my site.

  • Trisha_B

    People were getting me mad when they were taking pics of your ballot. It’s like you idiot, if you got caught, you could have not been able to vote. You don’t have to document your every move. I know when i voted they made a fuse every 5 minutes to have your phone & any electronics off as soon as you enter the building b/c it could cause glitches to the machines. Like Mary J Blige took a pic in front of her ballot, Beyonce, Mariah Carey, Ashanti all took pics at the ballot or of their ballot. & I’m like wait, how did they not get in trouble?! Just take a pic of your sticker & #hastag

  • realadulttalk

    These are the same people who tweet/instagram/fb that they are about to have a bowel movement as well…no one is really paying them any attention anyway.

  • It should be common sense that if you can’t show up to the polls with political paraphernalia on then you certainly shouldn’t be taking pictures and posting it for the world to see. Although some folks slipped up I’m glad Obama got 4 more years to keep moving us in the right direction. 2 TERMZ!!!!! (in my 2 Chainz voice)

  • Jazz

    Sad. I’m convinced that most people are moving backward while thinking they’re moving forward.I’m not sure how this young generation will fair out in a decade or two. Nothing these days are done with true intentions. Everything is about show and attention.

  • L-Boogie

    We have to do better. Collective “WE” as human beings not just Black people.

  • ANTMilf

    I took a pic of my voter receipt after I voted, but some of my friends took pics of their ballots and I had to get them told. Plus my older brother, who was an election judge at a polling place told me that people were doing that and got escorted out for doing the same.

  • gmarie

    I don’t understand this NEED to broadcast everything we do in life. Why not just tweet the voting sticker? We believe you. You have likely already mentioned several times over who you intend to vote for. Why do you need to photograph the actual ballot? We believe you.

    In most (I’m saying most because it’s been in all that I’ve been to but ya never know) polling locations there are large signs that state filming and photographing inside the location is prohibited. It’s usually next to the sign that prohibits campaigning within 100ft of the entrance.

    People today are so friggin THIRSTY for likes and thumbs ups and retweets that they would break the law just to over share. We need to get a grip.

    • Cinnamon71

      I agree gmarie. All attention that you get isn’t good attention.

  • Kourtney

    All I want to know is how they are gonna track the photo of your ballot. Like first they have to find your Facebook/Twitter/Intsagram, then they have to find your ballot and void it. It just doesn’t seem logical.

    • gmarie

      at this point and at the point the photos were tweeted, no there was not anything that could have been done about it. But if you are caught in the act at a polling place your ballot can be taken and marked invalid, which is what too many people took the risk of yesterday. That is what all the fuss was about.

  • Nikki

    Too many people have done it for legal action to be taken… I don’t think it’s a big deal.