89.1 WEMU

Michigan Voters May Not Take Ballot 'Selfies'

Sep 30, 2016

Voting Booths
Credit Wikipedia Media Commons / wikipedia.org

Some voters like to take “selfies” with their ballots on Election Day.  But, in Michigan, that’s against the law.

A federal appeals court just struck down New Hampshire’s ban on ballot “selfies” as a violation of free speech rights. But that ruling does not apply in Michigan, which has a law that bars publicly displaying a ballot by a voter.  New Hampshire is part of the First Circuit US Court of Appeals.  Michigan is part of the Sixth Circuit.

Fred Woodhams of the Michigan Secretary of State’s office says the purpose of the Michigan law is to fight coercion and vote-buying.

“Those aren’t issues that we encounter today,” he said, “but they were historically, and that’s why the Legislature more than 100 years ago enacted laws against that, and they’ve been very successful.”  

But critics say the law is an anachronism in a day and age when people are used to sharing daily activities on social media. 

State Representative Sam Singh (D-East Lansing) has sponsored a bill to allow people to snap a picture with their ballots.

“If someone is proud that they’re voting for their first time, or they’ve decided that a candidate that’s special to them that they’re voting for and they want to share that – to me, I don’t see that there’s anything wrong in them sharing that,” he said.

Singh says another danger is people could be violating the rules with no ill intent.

“Maybe not the most-pressing civil right,” he said, “but I did realize that people were inadvertently breaking the law, and I wanted to make sure they were protected.” 

Singh said he plans to ask Secretary of State Ruth Johnson to address how the state enforces the law to allow ballot “selfies.” 

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— 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