(TRENTON) – An Assembly panel on Thursday approved legislation (A-1919) sponsored by Assembly Democrats Raj Mukherji, Annette Chaparro, Angelica Jimenez, Angela McKnight and Nicholas Chiaravalloti to allow voters to photograph their own ballots while in the voting booth and share the picture on social media.
Under current law, a voter is prohibited from showing his or her voted ballot.
“This is a product of the times we live in,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson). “If voters want to express their pride in participating in our democracy by voting or tout their political preferences on social media, they should be entitled to do so. Since voter turnout is not as high as it should be, voters expressing their opinion online may encourage others to be civic-minded.”
Since 2011, at least five states – Maine, Oregon, Utah, Arizona and California – have passed laws allowing voters to share photos of their ballots, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire.
“Free speech in this century has become defined by social media,” said Chaparro (D-Hudson). “This will enable voters to exercise that right online in support of democracy if they choose to do so.”
In September 2016, a federal appeals court struck down a 2014 New Hampshire law that banned voters from sharing photos of their marked ballots on social media. A unanimous three-judge panel of the First U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that New Hampshire authorities furnished no evidence that ballot “selfies” encouraged vote buying or voter coercion. They failed, as a result, to justify the law’s curbs on an increasingly popular form of speech.
“It should be a voter’s prerogative if they want to share their voting choice on social media this way,” said Jimenez (D-Hudson/Bergen). “The main form of communication for this latest generation of voters is through online visuals. This is updating democracy to fit the times.”
“This is about freedom of speech in the new millennium,” said McKnight (D-Hudson). “We should be encouraging, not preventing, more people from being engaged in the democratic process.”
“The right to vote and the right to free speech are two of the most fundamental rights that Americans have,” said Chiaravalloti (D-Hudson). “If people want to exercise both at the same time, they should be allowed to.”
Current state law also prohibits other people from requesting that a voter show his or her voted ballot or from inspecting such ballot during or after voting as to reveal its contents. This bill does not remove these prohibitions. Rather, it provides that these provisions of current law would not be interpreted to prohibit a voter from voluntarily taking a photograph of the voter’s own voted ballot and sharing it on Internet-based social media.
The bill, released by the Assembly State and Local Government Committee, will now be considered for a floor vote.