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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