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Appeals court strikes down ban on "ballot selfies" in New Hampshire

Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Dean Logan demonstrates a current voting booth in Norwalk, California, United States, February 16, 2016.

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A federal court just ‘liked’ your voting booth selfie.

A three-judge panel on the U.S. First District Court of Appeals struck down New Hampshire’s 2014 ban on self-posted ballot photos, deeming it a violation of the First Amendment’s protected right to freedom of speech.

“New Hampshire may not impose such a broad restriction on speech by banning ballot selfies in order to combat an unsubstantiated and hypothetical danger,” Judge Sandra Lynch wrote in the decision, handed down Thursday. “We repeat the old adage: ‘A picture is worth a thousand words.’”

Defendant Bill Gardner, New Hampshire’s secretary of state, had argued that the posting of the so-called “ballot selfies” encouraged voter fraud and “vote buying” schemes where the photos would serve as proof of their vote. Though the state did not present evidence that such operations existed, Gardner claimed that the statute was justified as a “prophylactic measure to prevent new technology from facilitating future vote buying and voter coercion.” Violating that law would have cost someone a $1000 fine.

Judge Lynch blasted that argument, saying “the ballot-selfie prohibition is like burn[ing down] the house to roast the pig.”  

Since 1979, New Hampshire has made it illegal for a voter to show their ballot to someone else. Legislators amended that law in 2014 to also include “taking a digital image or photograph of his or her marked ballot and distributing or sharing the image via social media.”

After being investigated over their ballot selfies, three voters in New Hampshire sued to repeal the law. One voter, Andrew Langlois, voted in the 2014 primary election and -- according to court documents -- because he “did not approve of the Republican candidates for the United States Senate,” wrote instead the name “Akira,” his recently deceased dog.