THE WABASH VALLEY (WTHI) – Technology dominates our world. Smartphones are glued to our hands, allowing any moment to be documented with a photo or video. Some early voters are even taking selfies in the polls. News 10 took a look at the laws in the Wabash Valley.
“We’ve had a lot of first time voters this year,” said Clay County Election Clerk Jason Jacobs.
Politicians have been urging young voters to show up to the polls. What some election offices like Clay County’s have noticed is they’re showing up and taking selfies.
But with technology changing faster than laws can, this leaves uncertainty about using cell phones at polling places.
“Yes, voters can have their cell phones on them in the polling place and can even take pictures of their ballot. However there are different laws whether or not they can share that picture if the ballot is marked,” said Jacobs.
In Indiana, voters can legally take a selfie at the poll as long as the ballot is unmarked.
But in Illinois, the law is open for interpretation. Photos are not explicitly illegal but most election sites don’t allow voters to take pictures. The Illinois election board fears photos would encourage fraudulent behavior like paying people to vote a certain party or pressure voters to follow the requests of a union or other organization.
“It would be nice if we had a blanket law to make things clearer because we have had people move from other states recently,” said Jacobs. “Not specifically for picture purposes but for voting rules in general.”
A voter in Indiana who shares a photo with a marked ballot in it could be charged with a level six felony according to Indiana law.
A voter in Illinois who shares a photo with a marked ballot in it could be charged with a level four felony according to Illinois state law.
Without a federal law specifically allowing or prohibiting selfies in the polls, states decide for themselves what they will allow. It’s unlikely a federal law will ever pass to ban photographs at or in a polling site because it’s could be ruled unconstitutional. Political speech is one of the most protected forms of speech under the first amendment.
The verdict is in: taking a selfie isn’t explicitly illegal in either Indiana or Illinois, but make sure your ballot is not marked and you check with your local election office on their specific rules.