Voters Have One More Decision To Make This Election: To Ballot Selfie Or Not?

by Mike Julianelle
ballot selfies

There are a lot of things to worry about these days, from climate change to ISIS to a Trump presidency to the fact that there are enough people that aren’t even worried about a Trump presidency that there’s still an actual chance of one, etc.

But some issues are more important than others, like ballot selfies.

You heard me.

Ballot selfies — in which a person, maybe you, probably a millennial, definitely Kim Kardashian (too soon?), takes a photo of themselves while inside a voting booth — are an actual thing, and apparently have become so commonplace that many states have had to institute laws regarding them. What happens in the voting booth used to stay in the voting booth, but not anymore.

Thanks, social media!

According to an article on ABC News, 20 states currently allow ballot selfies, 18 do not allow them, and 12 are unclear on the matter — which is my favorite category. When you read the reasons those states have “unclear” legal guidelines about ballot selfies, it’s mostly because they’re frowned upon, but can’t be stopped.

For example, from ABC News, “DELAWARE: Has a policy against cellphones in voting booths, but elections Commissioner Elaine Manlove said: ‘I don’t know that we can control what happens behind the curtain.'”

Do you remember when discussing politics, particularly who you might be voting for in an upcoming election (Is there one of those around here? I haven’t heard!), was verboten? It was something that just wasn’t done — whether at a dinner party, or around a conference table, or at your in-laws’ house — for fear of causing unnecessary conflict and discomfort.

It was about civility and decorum.

Also, do you remember record players? Like those things, they don’t exist anymore either — which is fine for the people taking these selfies, because they likely don’t remember record players or a time when people didn’t broadcast every tiny little detail of their lives.

Thanks to technology and social media and WikiLeaks and reality TV and your gross kids constantly barging in on you in the bathroom (Can’t a guy get two minutes of solitude around here? Go find your mother!), nothing is private anymore, and very little is sacred. That includes politics and voting.

Personally, I’m of the mindset that the voting process should be as quick and painless as possible. If I could tweet my vote, I would. (Please note: You absolutely can not tweet your vote, and if anyone tells you that you can, they’re are actually trying to “rig” the election.) I ain’t about to linger so I can capture the moment; I can always just share a picture of myself with an “I voted!” sticker.

In fact, many of the states that ban the practice of ballot selfies, including New Jersey, New Mexico, and New York, and some of the ones where the laws are slightly less clear, prohibit anyone displaying their ballot in order to indicate how they voted. It’s not just decorum. It’s the law!

To be totally fair, people posting ballot selfies aren’t necessarily broadcasting who they’ve voted for, but it stands to reason that if they’re taking a photo to announce that they’re voting, they probably aren’t too shy about sharing that fact, either.

This election is pretty polarizing. At this point, you’re either “with her,” or against civil rights, equal rights, Mexicans, Muslims, consent, not raping people, Gold Star families, veterans, soldiers who get captured, people who deserve to be paid for their work, the English language, and basic human decency — and you’re probably not afraid to say it, whether through a photo you post online, a disgusting rant on Facebook, or a homemade T-shirt that calls Hillary the C-word.

As you can probably tell, this doesn’t strike me as a huge issue, and until and unless someone actually comes up with proof of ballot selfies contributing to a “rigged” election, I don’t think it will be. Even the states that ban ballot selfies mostly shrug and admit there’s little they can do to prevent them. And I suspect as our technology and/or narcissism continue to progress, the laws will eventually go by the wayside. Hell, if Trump gets elected, most laws will go by the wayside, along with voting booths and the rest of American democracy.

So go ahead and take 100 ballot selfies while you’re voting. Just make sure you do it after you actually vote.