People have been sharing selfies and photos showing off their “I Voted” stickers or celebrating their votes ever since social media became popular.
But what about posting a photo of your actual ballot on social media? VERIFY viewer Tom asked us whether it’s legal to take a photo of a ballot to share with friends.
This reporting is part of a series of stories ahead of the midterm elections. If you have any questions about the elections, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or message us on social media @verifythis.
More from VERIFY: 5 fast facts about midterm elections
Is it legal to post a photo of your ballot during an election?
- National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL)
- New Hampshire House Bill 366
- New Hampshire court records
- Individual state ballot photography laws
It depends. Each state sets its own rules for taking photos of ballots, and photos at polling places.
WHAT WE FOUND
Each state runs its own elections and therefore can create independent rules when it comes to what is or isn’t allowed during elections – even when it comes to photography.
Each state has its own law about taking photos from inside a polling place. Some states also have specific laws about whether a person can take and share a digital photo of their ballot, whether they’re at a polling place or filling it out at home.
New Hampshire was the first state to tackle the legality of sharing a ballot photo online, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
In 2014, New Hampshire passed a law specifically prohibiting people from posting pictures of their marked ballot on social media, claiming people posting how they voted could lead to intimidation, vote buying or coercion, but the law has since been struck down.
The law was challenged in federal court as a violation of First Amendment rights to free speech. The federal court ruled there was no evidence of vote buying or voter coercion in connection to people posting photos of their ballots, and in New Hampshire, ballot photos became protected under the First Amendment.
The ruling allowed individuals to take photos of their ballot or with their ballot in New Hampshire without fear of punishment, which led to some other states changing their laws to follow suit.
Hawaii, Nebraska, Oregon, Colorado and California are among states that allow a person to post photos of their ballots.
Some states don’t allow voters to post or take photos inside the polling place at all, which means no ballot pictures can be taken in the actual voting booth.
Arizona prohibits photography within 75 feet of a polling location, and violating the law is a misdemeanor, according to Arizona’s secretary of state. But, the law doesn’t mention whether someone can take a ballot selfie if they are outside of the polling place, VERIFY partner station KPNX in Phoenix reported.
In Texas, people can’t take any wireless device within 100 feet of a polling place, but the state election code doesn’t prohibit people from taking photos of their ballots outside of that perimeter.
So, rules on photography at the polls vary state-by-state. Before you take that picture, make sure you check out the laws in your own state by reaching out to the local election board or secretary of state.