Dec. 2, 2016
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Bringing Selfies Back

Yes, you CAN take a photo in the voting booth.

November 7, 2016, 7:00 pm

Got your outfit picked out for Election Day? Gas in the car? Battery charged on your cellphone for that perfect ballot box selfie?

But what about the talk about how you might not be allowed to snap some snaps when you vote?

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico doesn’t want you to be dissuaded by all this talk about whether taking a ballot box selfie is illegal. Ever heard of the First Amendment? We are big fans. Snap away.

Geraldine Salazar, the Santa Fe County Clerk, was among the 33 recipients of letters from the New Mexico chapter of the ACLU last week, urging poll workers to lift local restrictions on cellphones and photography in the voting booth.  

“This issue goes to the very core of our fundamental right to free speech,” says ACLUNM director Peter Simonson, who noted that at least one largely rural New Mexico county, Rio Arriba, has actively prohibited cellphone cameras in polling places. 

Salazar tells SFR it’s OK to say cheese. Her rules for polling place officials include an explicit allowance for today’s tools of social media. Not only is it permissible for voters to use phones for research, but nondisruptive photography are fine.

According to rule number one, “A voter may carry a cell phone into a polling place and no voter should be excluded because the person has a cell phone.”

There is a bit of room for interpretation in the rules though. The second rule states: “A voter may not disrupt the polling place. A voter speaking on the cell phone or taking pictures may be considered to be disruptive and the Presiding Judge is authorized by law to address those disruptions by first asking the person to cease the disruptive behavior and if that does not work, then by removing the person from the polling place.”   

Meanwhile, an analysis of state voting laws by the Associated Press showed New Mexico among states where ballot selfies are “illegal” based on language that says no one should show their filled-out, printed paper ballot to another person. The civil rights organization disagrees with this interpretation.

I decided to vote early this year after the second presidential debate on Oct. 9. The debate was so disheartening that I forced myself to the polls so I could tune out any and all further debate coverage without a guilty conscience.

And after I received my congratulatory sticker, being the millennial I am, I wanted to take a selfie to post alongside the hash tag #NastyWoman (because, girl power). But, I waited until I got home.  Earlier in the week, I heard that famous fellow millennial Justin Timberlake was in a whole lot of trouble for snapping a selfie with his completed ballot in the voting booth. Rumors of jail time abounded and I thought, Well, if it can happen to him...

But the ACLU and, as it turns out, the courts, have your back.   

“All voters have a right to share with other people how they voted,” says Simonson. “In fact, federal courts have recently ruled that sharing a ‘ballot selfie’ is a political speech, a form of speech that enjoys the highest level of protection under the US Constitution.”   

Our advice: Go for it. Take that selfie and if it’s considered disruptive, removal is the worst they can do to you. Vote! Shout it from the mountaintop.

Polling places are open Tuesday from 7 am to 7 pm. Find yours here.

 

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