Ballot Box Selfies

January 26, 2017

By Keffer Hirschauer LLP

Voting in the United States is viewed by many as a sacred right. Just as with many other aspects of their lives, some individuals use their smartphones and social media to memorialize and share with others their experience exercising of their right to vote.

In Indiana, however, the State had concern that the use of smartphones and social media in polling places would or has caused issues with voter fraud. Consequently, the Indiana Legislature passed a law, I.C. 3-11-8-17.5, which regulated a voter’s actions in the polls. Specifically, the law stated: “(a) Voters may use cellular telephones or other electronic devices in the polls as long as electioneering or loud or disruptive conversations do not occur. (b) A voter may not do the following: (1) Take a digital image or photograph of the voter’s ballot while the voter is in a polling place, an office of the circuit court clerk (under IC 3-11-10-26), a satellite office established under IC 3-11-10-26.3, or a vote center established under IC 3-11-18.1-4, except to document and report to a precinct election officer, the county election board, or the election division a problem with the functioning of the voting system. (2) Distribute or share the image described in subdivision (1) using social media or by any other means.”

However, on January 19, 2017, Judge Sarah Evans Barker of the Southern District of Indiana struck down that law and found that the State did not prove that the prohibition against photographs in polling places was related to or limited to vote buying and voter coercion. She noted that the burden and restrictions placed on Hoosier’s freedom of speech was overly broad and would fall on voters who engage in harmless activities. She stated, “[a]t best, it provides an indiscriminate, blunt instrument to remedy a so-far undetected problem.” While it is yet to be determined whether the State of Indiana will appeal the decision of the Court, Judge Barker has determined that a prohibition against photographs of a voter’s ballot is unconstitutional and contrary to the First Amendment.

Do you have a question about your constitutional rights? Contact the Indianapolis constitutional lawyers at Keffer Hirschauer LLP who have experience prosecuting civil rights claims. If you believe your constitutional rights have been violated, call today to (317) 857-0160 or 1-800-NOT-GUILTY to schedule a free initial consultation.