Outlaw ballot 'selfies'

Monday, November 7, 2016

Some states allow voters to take "selfies" with their completed ballots and some states outlaw that practice. Iowa has a mixed approach, outlawing cameras, cellphones or other electronic devices in voting booths, but allowing photos of completed absentee ballots.

A New York ban against public display of a person’s voting choice was recently upheld in court following a court challenge. The court made the right decision in New York. Other states, including Iowa, should restrict the public display of election ballots.

The secret ballot was pioneered in Australia in the mid-nineteenth century. The right to vote secretly in most democracies is now so ubiquitous that we assume it to be a defining characteristic of elections, but the idea behind the widespread adoption of what is known as the Australian ballot was not just to allow secret voting but to require it.

There had been a real problem prior to the secret ballot with buying votes and with intimidating voters, particularly with employers requiring employees to vote for the employers’ preferred candidates.

There are less blatant examples of intimidation that could influence voters who might be required or intimidated into proving who they vote for.

Enforcing a ban on ballot photos may be impossible but such images should be prohibited even if the prohibition is more of a public policy stand of the government than an absolute prevention of shared ballot pictures.