‘Ballot selfies’ are a felony in Illinois

‘Ballot selfies’ are a felony in Illinois

Voters wanting to show their Election Day pride should be careful. Sharing a voting-booth selfie on social media is a felony in Illinois.

April 4 is Election Day for local governments across Illinois, but be careful not to take a self-portrait in the voting booth unless you are ready to potentially face a felony charge.

Sharing your filled-in ballot on social media is technically a Class 4 felony in Illinois, which comes with a prison sentence of one to three years and a maximum fine of $25,000. According to the Illinois Election Code, anyone who “knowingly” casts his or her ballot in a way that “can be observed by another person” is breaking the law.

The intent is to deter vote buying: showing the photo in exchange for cash. But vote buying itself is outlawed, so a felony for photos is just overkill.

And there can be First Amendment issues with outlawing this kind of political speech.

In 2016, a federal judge struck down New Hampshire’s ballot selfie ban, deciding in response to vote-buying concerns that the ban was “burning down the house to roast the pig.”

From 2015 to 2019, Utah, Nebraska, Colorado, Oklahoma, Oregon, Hawaii and California all passed legislation allowing voters to photograph their ballots, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Sharing ballot pictures can be a motivational tool to get social media users registered for their civic duty.

Illinois came close to overturning its ban in 2017. Before he became Illinois House speaker, Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, filed a bill that allowed voters to take photos of their ballot as long as they didn’t accept any money in exchange. The House passed it overwhelmingly, but the Senate never took a vote.

Until the law changes, Illinoisans who want to express their civic pride are better off sporting an “I Voted” sticker or taking a photo outside their polling place.

Polls are open 6 a.m. until 7 p.m., April 4.

Here’s more information about voting in the upcoming election.

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