First Circuit Strikes Down New Hampshire's 'Ballot Selfies' Ban

Sep 28, 2016

Credit NHPR Staff

A New Hampshire law banning photographs of marked ballots has been struck down by the first circuit court of appeals.

The ruling marks the second time a federal court has found so-called ballot selfies permissible under the first amendment.

New Hampshire's law, which took effect in 2014 made displaying a picture of a marked ballot a crime punishable by a $1000 fine. 

The theory behind the law, championed by NH secretary of state Bill Gardner, is that permitting people to prove how they voted, opened the door to potential voter coercion.

But in affirming the ruling of the US district court, the First Circuit Court of Appeals found ballot selfies amount to "core political speech," and that the state had no license to to ban them on the grounds of "unsubstantiated and hypothetical danger. 

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire first challenged the law two years ago. ALCU-NH lawyer Gilles Bissonette argued the case.

"Political speech is essential to a functioning democracy and the first amendment doesn't allow the state to do what it is doing here, broadly ban innocent speech with the hope that such a sweeping ban will address criminal conduct."        

26 states have laws explicitly banning ballot selfies. Social media company Snapchat filed a brief in this case, arguing that selfies are a way for young voters to participate in the political process.