Can you snap a poorly lit selfie right there in the booth with your ballot all filled out? Can you do a vote just for the ’Gram? Technically, yes, you can take the picture wherever, but your social-media share might be illegal depending on where you are. Many states ban the practice with laws intended to prevent vote-buying and other forms of voter coercion. (The idea is if you can take a photo, you can clearly confirm that you followed up on your end of the deal.) For example: if you’re mean-mugging with a completed ballot at a New York primary today, your photo is illegal as hell.
Meanwhile, if you’re hoping to selfie it up the next time you vote in New Hampshire or Indiana, you can thank the ACLU for challenging the anti-ballot selfie laws in those states, arguing—successfully—that
they suppress free speech protected under the First Amendment. Federal judges agreed, striking down the laws in both states, making them legal for now, though anti-selfie zealots in New Hampshire are appealing that ruling. Maine, Oregon, and Utah have legalized the practice, and one California assemblyman is pushing for similar reform in his state, hoping to drive voter turnout.
Our finest selfie theorists make the case that a selfie is a form of radical self-care, so it takes only a small stretch of the thinkpiece to see it as an act of political expression, too. In the NH case, a federal judge ruled that the anti-selfie law “deprives voters of one of their most powerful means of letting the world know how they voted.” This is not too far-flung an idea. The images we circulate, for better or worse, set norms for what people actually do: photos of dogs and brunch engender more photos of more dogs and more brunches. If the most tangible contribution social media makes to our lives is the Fear Of Missing Out, then let that FOMO at least serve as fuel for civic engagement.