John Stossel is off. The following is a column by Corey Friedman.
If you share a snapshot from the voting booth, elections officials might scour your social media pages and offer you a choice: censorship or a criminal charge.
That’s what happened to T. Greg Doucette, who cast his ballot Oct. 15 during early voting at the N.C. Central University School of Law. North Carolina is among 15 states that ban photos of marked ballots. Nine other states maintain unclear or conflicting statutes, according to Ballotpedia.
After tweeting pictures of his ballot before and after voting — a riff on the “How it started vs. how it’s going” relationship meme — Doucette said a state board of elections investigator phoned him.
A criminal defense attorney who specializes in First Amendment law, Doucette knew a federal judge in New Hampshire had ruled that state’s ballot-photography ban unconstitutional in 2015. After hearing from other voters who were warned to delete their publicly posted ballot selfies, he was ready to challenge North Carolina’s law on free-speech grounds.
“A good number of folks are sufficiently intimidated that they take it down — it chills their speech,” Doucette said. “They asked me to take it down. I told them, ‘No, I’m leaving it up.’”
He also emailed the investigator a written confession along with the original photos from his smartphone and then tweeted screen captures of his email for good measure. While Doucette counsels his clients to never talk to the police or consent to a search, he’s ready for his day in court.
Ballot-photo bans are ostensibly designed to prevent voter fraud. People who sell their votes or are coerced into voting a certain way could provide proof with the click of a shutter.
But voters involved in such schemes would be more likely to send photos privately than plaster them on social media. People tell the world which candidates they support, because they’re proud of those choices and want to persuade others.