Post a Photo of Your Marked Ballot? You've Broken the Law

Lawsuit seeks to overturn ban, claims Freedom of Speech is at issue

Enthusiastic voters may want to post what have been called “ballot selfies” on social media of how they voted in the upcoming elections.

But in Michigan, they would be breaking the law.

One man is challenging that law in court. Portage resident Joel Crookston filed a lawsuit Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan against the Secretary of State, saying the law infringes upon his right to free speech under the First Amendment.

In November 2012, Crookston posted a photo of his ballot that included his vote for a write-in candidate. The lawsuit claims that Crookston was subject to being prosecuted for a misdemeanor and could face a fine of $500 and a jail term of not more than 90 days.

A spokesman for the Secretary of State said he was not aware of posting a photo of a ballot being a misdemeanor or being subject to a fine or jail time.

“Voters who intentionally expose their ballot, whether via social media or in a polling place, risk having their ballot voided and not being issued a new one,” said Fred Woodhams, spokesman for the Secretary of State, in an email. “Laws prohibiting ballot exposure are intended to prevent vote buying and voter coercion.”

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The attorney representing Crookston said he has seen politicians retweeting photos of ballot selfies.

“For the Secretary of State to claim there is actual vote buying going on because people are posting their ballot, that is nonsense,” said Stephen Klein, the attorney for Crookston. “There is no giant conspiracy going on. One of the reasons I took the lawsuit was because the prevalence of the ballot selfies.”

In March of this year, House Bill 5430 was introduced by Rep. Sam Singh, D-East Lansing, which would permit voters to photograph and post a copy of their ballot. House Bill 5430 was referred to a house committee and no action has been taken on it.

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