Denver DA: No ballot selfies allowed

Mailing a ballot feels great, especially this year. However, you really should not post a photo of your grinning face next to your completed ballot.

screen-shot-2016-10-20-at-10-00-36-am

Mailing a ballot feels great, especially this year. However, you really should not post a photo of your grinning face next to your completed ballot, as Denver’s district attorney informed us this morning.

Says Mitch Morrissey’s office:

“Colorado is one of many states that ban a ballot selfie. The law, found at §1-13-712 in the Colorado Revised Statutes, states that, ‘No voter shall show his ballot after it is prepared for voting to any person in such a way as to reveal its contents.’ It is a misdemeanor offense.”

So, this would be legal, since it’s not marked yet:

 

While this Instagrammed vote for Jack Kroll appears not to be:

seems a little #excessive for a #ballot but hey #colorado #earlyvoting, why not.

A photo posted by Karl Taylor (@karljtaylor) on

Sorry, Karl Taylor.

Worth noting, though: There have not been any local ballot-selfie charges in recent memory, according to Lynn Kimbrough, a spokesperson for the DA’s office.

She writes: “Just a friendly reminder that there is a law out there…”

But why?

Well, this exact kind of law was recently the subject of a court case in New Hampshire, where ballot selfies were illegal.

Legislators there argued that “digital images of ballots could be used to aid in schemes to coerce or buy votes,” as CNN reported. In other words, you could use that ballot selfie to show you had held up your end of some vote-buying deal.

The American Civil Liberties Union brought the suit on behalf of three people accused of violating the law, who were fined $1,000 each. The plaintiffs argued that the freedom of speech includes the right to show people how you voted. A lower court and a federal court agreed and struck down the law, as did another court in a similar Indiana case.

The rulings allowing for ballot selfies do not, however, apply to Colorado. (Extra credit: Seven states expressly allow ballot selfies, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.)

Update: The ACLU is unhappy.

The ACLU has called on Morrissey to retract his statement. The nonprofit argues that the “misguided threat” could scare voters who actually do need to share their ballot.

An elderly person, a person with a disability or a person who doesn’t speak English, for example, may need to seek assistance.

“The Colorado Voter Access and Modernization Act specifically gives voters who need assistance a right to bring a friend, a family member, or any other designee to help at the polls, and they cannot be challenged when that help requires them to show their ballot to someone rendering assistance.”

“Mr. Morrissey’s misguided statement could confuse both voters and election monitors.  It poses the risk of chilling voters who need assistance from asking for it if they fear that showing their ballot will violate the law.  It should be retracted immediately.”

Meanwhile, the Denver Elections Division weighed in with some more selfie advice:

What’s the moral of the story? VOTE.

Andrew Kenney

Author: Andrew Kenney

Andrew Kenney writes about public spaces, Denver phenomena and whatever else. He previously worked for six years as a reporter at The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C. His most prized possession is his collection of bizarre voicemail. Leave him one at 303-502-2803, or email akenney@denverite.com.