89.1 WEMU

'Ballot Selfies' Case Headed To Federal Appeals Court

Oct 27, 2016

Voting Booth
Credit Sam Felder / flickr.com

Michigan is asking a federal appeals court to restore the state’s ban on people taking “selfies” with their ballots on Election Day and do it quickly. 


Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and Secretary of State Ruth Johnson say the “selfies” ban helps ensure ballot security.  They also say it’s too late to re-train poll workers this close to Election Day. 

A federal judge in Grand Rapids ruled earlier this week the “ballot selfies” ban violates First Amendment free speech rights.  On Thursday, US District Court Judge Janet Neff refused the state’s request to put her order on hold. 

Fred Woodhams is a spokesman for the state Bureau of Elections.  He says the law that says no one can show their filled-out ballot to another person protects voters. 

“We believe the law ensures Michigan residents can cast a ballot free of outside influence,” he said.  “The law has been in effect for more than 125 years and it has been effective in preventing vote buying and voter coercion.” 

Woodhams also says it’s very late in the game to be changing the rules.  The election is now less than two weeks away.

“If the order stands, we will have to develop new policies and procedures about when photography is allowed in a polling place, and when it’s not, and then communicate all of that to 30 thousand election workers, in addition the millions of voters who will head to the polls November 8th.” 

But attorney Stephen Klein says lifting the “selfies” ban does not require a lot of re-training.

“Michigan voters, as we showed in our case, were already taking ‘ballot selfies’ even when it was illegal,” he said.  “All they have to do now is let people keep doing what they were already doing.” 

Klein says the Secretary of State should act now to alert local clerks that it will probably be legal for voters to take pictures with their ballots. 

Like 89.1 WEMU on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

— Rick Pluta is the Managing Editor and Reporter for the Michigan Public Radio network.  Contact WEMU News at 734.487.3363 or email us at studio@wemu.org