The move to make ballot selfies legal in multiple states has sparked discussion about the historical reasons that laws against ballot selfies exist. Supporters of the change are also seeking to expand what they see as a basic voting right. The latest turn in this national debate is explained in this summary from Ballot Access News by Richard Winger breaking the news that, “on April 18, the Oklahoma legislature passed HB 3053. It makes it legal for a voter to photograph that voter’s completed ballot. The vote in the House was 83-5, and in the State Senate, 36-6. It now goes to Governor Mary Fallin.”
Although the voting selfie is a seemingly an perspectively innocuous practice, a very interesting and modern discussion on election law has been ignited that touches on issues of new technologies, privacy, voter intimidation, free speech and more. In some states you can still technically face punishment for taking a vote selfie but prosecutions are unlikely.
The real threat of voting selfies in Oklahoma and elsewhere is to the secret ballot: a fundamental tenet of American democracy. In theory, if someone wanted to threaten others into voting for them, they could in theory demand photographic proof that their threat worked. As Bryan Dean, a spokesman for the Oklahoma State Election Board, recently explained in an interview with KGOU radio, “there’s always concerns about — if you look at decades ago — people potentially selling votes, union bosses, or employers or someone else trying to intimidate someone by forcing them to show how they voted or something of that nature, potentially forcing their vote.”
Also see related Democracy Chronicles articles like those on the Founding Fathers, Election History or even seen our section on American democracy. Lastly, here is a video of several experts testifying to the New Hampshire Legislature in 2017 about the potential problems and benefits to consider about ballot selfies: