Good News, NH: You Can Take Ballot Selfies Again

Federal court says ban infringes on 1st Amendment rights to 'core political speech'
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 29, 2016 6:58 AM CDT
Good News, NH: You Can Take Ballot Selfies Again
Feel free to post, New Hampshire-ites.   (Getty Images)

If you live in New Hampshire and want to take a picture of your Election Day ballot to post on Facebook so your friends can argue over your judgment, that's your call. So says a federal appeals court that overturned a ban on ballot selfies, ruling that the 2014 decision nixing them was unconstitutional, WMUR reports. The decision notes "core political speech," as represented by such a pic, is "highly protected" by the First Amendment, and that banning the selfies "is like burning down the house to roast the pig," per NBC News. "Ballot selfies have taken on a special communicative value" in which voters can show who they're throwing their support behind, the ruling adds. Flouting the ban could have led to a fine of up to $1,000. The state had argued the selfies can lead to voter intimidation, but the court disagreed, calling that fear "an unsubstantiated and hypothetical danger."

Not that everyone followed the original ruling, which was challenged by the ACLU's state chapter. One of those selfie rebels: state Rep. Leon Rideout, who has posted his ballot pic on social media. "To me, [the ban] was just another incremental infringement on our constitutional rights," he says. Even Snapchat weighed in with a friend-of-the-court brief, per Ars Technica, noting selfies encourage "younger voters [to] participate in the political process." The ACLU's legal director applauds the court's decision, saying more focus should go toward legit cases of vote buying and coercion rather than toward "innocent political speech." The court's conclusion? "A picture is worth a thousand words." Other places covered by the ruling: Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Puerto Rico. (NBC and the Huffington Post detail which states allow ballot selfies, though some laws are murky).

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