A completed ballot. A sealed envelope. A fresh “I voted” sticker. All of these make the perfect patriotic props to pose with for your next Instagram post. But before you tap that touchscreen and snap that selfie, you should first make sure it’s legal to do so in your state.
With a few days left until Election Day, a record-breaking 78 million Americans have already cast early ballots, according to U.S. Elections Project data on Thursday. With the surge in early ballots, the 2020 election is already on track for historic levels of voter turnout.
This year’s election also falls amid the coronavirus pandemic, leading to a record number of Americans filling out their ballots at home. Still, the same regulations that apply when you vote at an official polling site may apply for mail-in ballots.
While snapping a selfie with a sealed envelope is perfectly legal, memorializing your marked ballot with a photo can lead to unintended consequences, like having your vote challenged or even thrown out. Violations could even lead to fines and even jail time, although it's rare to find reports of violators being prosecuted, even in instances of virality.
For example, in 2016, singer Justin Timberlake posted a selfie to his Instagram account which showed him casting his ballot while in a voting booth in his hometown of Memphis, Tenn. Fortunately for Timberlake, who could have faced 30 days in jail and a $50 fine for the now-deleted photo, authorities let it go, but the gaffe still serves as a reminder that sometimes you shouldn’t do it for the ‘gram.
In other states, ballot selfies now enjoy legal protections due to the rise in popularity of social media. California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nebraska, Oregon, and Utah, have passed legislation to explicitly allow voters to post pictures of their marked ballots, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).
“The explosion of social media and ‘selfie’ culture has also challenged the traditional thinking that voters should not disclose how they voted,’’ the NCSL wrote of the updated laws. “Many young people, who share everything on social media, find it logical that they should be able to share a photo of their voted ballot with friends and followers.’’
So, should you risk a selfie for the ‘gram? You may be in the clear, but you’d better check first. Here’s where your state falls in the Great Ballot Selfie Debate.
Am I allowed to take a ballot selfie in my state?
Where ballot selfies are allowed: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming.
Where ballot selfies are prohibited: Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.
Where rules on ballot selfies are complicated: Arizona, Delaware, Iowa, Maryland, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia.
*Ballot selfie data compiled by Ballotpedia.