A state House member says Missouri law prohibits people from taking selfie’s in voting booths, and he wants it changed.
A portion of a measure passed in 1977 prohibits voters from allowing others to see their ballots if the purpose is to reveal how they voted.
Stephanie Fleming with the Secretary of State’s office says voters should check with their local election authority before snapping a photo, and at least one county clerk has called ballot box selfie’s illegal.
State Representative Charlie Davis of Webb City interprets the law the same way, and claims it violates the 1st Amendment. “Look at anybody’s facebook page today” said Davis. “Look at anybody’s emails that they get and send out. Look at anybody’s Instagram. People know where people stand politically. And this is an absolute 1st amendment right”.
Davis thinks there were legitimate fears in the 1970’s that people would publish photos of their ballots to coerce others into voting a certain way. But he says the Missouri law in outdated. “What is the difference between taking my opinion and putting it on facebook, and saying ‘I’m am voting for A,B,C or D’, and taking a picture of yourself with a ballot that shows that you voted for A,B,C, and D. I honestly believe that it is an archaic law. I believe that it is outdated.”
Davis points out a federal judge has ruled bans on ballot selfies are unconstitutional, and says he’ll work to make that decision the law in Missouri. “I will be working on legislation to try to address that issue to make sure that we’re not incarcerating or punishing or fining citizens for doing something that technology today has, kind of, driven”.
United States District Judge Paul Barbadoro, held a New Hampshire law banning all disclosure of one’s ballot unconstitutional as a violation of the right to free speech.
Ballot selfies made headlines recently when Justin Timberbake, who flew to Tennessee to vote early in his hometown of Memphis. After posting selfie of himself in the ballot box, it was noted Tennessee law possibly prohibits the photos. State officials declined to pursue the matter, but the issue has been getting attention since then.
KY3 TV from Springfield reported that the Greene County Clerk interprets the Missouri law to show ballot selfies to be illegal. Clerk Shane Schoeller said “There is coding that’s on the side of that ballot that is used when it’s put into the voting machine. So we do not want that coding to be out there for everyone to be able to have access to potentially make copies of those ballots”.
Of the neighboring states, Kentucky and Nebraska allow ballot selfies. Illinois and Kansas forbid them. And like Missouri, Arkansas, Iowa, Oklahoma and Tennessee are unclear on the matter.
Representative Davis will be able to draft legislation to make Missouri’s law more defined. He’s a Republican who’s running unopposed in next month’s election. Davis notes he’s in the IT industry, having owned a computer store in Joplin for 27 years.