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New Hampshire Strikes Down Ban on 'Ballot Selfies'

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on August 13, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Despite not being a selfie at all, so-called "ballot selfies" are now legal in New Hampshire. A federal judge struck down the state's ban on posting photographs of filled-out voting ballots, which are obviously not the face of the person taking the picture.

The judge overturned the law on free speech grounds, which apparently means everyone is free to call any old photo a "selfie" these days.

No Sense of Selfie

New Hampshire passed the law in 2014, which prohibited a voter from "taking a digital image or photograph of his or her marked ballot and distributing or sharing the image via social media or by any other means." (Note the statute does not indicate that the voter's face be included in the photograph.)

The state argued that publication of ballots could open the door to voter coercion and vote selling. Assistant Attorney General Stephen LaBonte was worried that people could use social media and other technology for voter fraud. (What they should've argued for is some sort of language integrity. Misusing a term a simple as "selfie" -- that's the real fraud.)

Free Speech = Meaningless Speech?

U.S. District Court Judge Paul Barbadoro, however, was having none of that and said the statute violated constitutional free speech rights. Barbadoro noted there were no cases of vote-buying or coercion in New Hampshire, writing, "the people who are most likely to be ensnared by the new law are those who wish to use images of their completed ballots to make a political point."

(Look, no one likes the word "selfie" and even fewer people like selfies themselves. But come on -- a selfie by its own definition is a picture taken of the self. The word "selfie" distinguishes photographs of the self from photographs of all the other things, including ballots. Calling a picture a "ballot selfie" when there is no self in the frame is absurd.)

Only three people had been investigated under the New Hampshire law, one of whom posted a shot of his ballot on Facebook after he had handwritten his dog's name for U.S. Senate. Clearly Judge Barbadoro was not convinced this law was being used properly. (Just like the phrase "ballot selfie"!)

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