The world was set abuzz when it was reported that voting machines were being taken offline for switching the vote from Obama to Romney. The news got to the public because a person who was in the voting booth videotaped the incident for the entire world to see. But what you may not know is that this kind of activity is illegal in many states.
Most states do not allow you to videotape inside polling locations and don’t allow you to share the contents of your ballot with anyone. It’s not likely that anyone is going to be prosecuted, but it’s not impossible.
“We have 50 states, and they go in many different directions on this,” says Jeff Hermes, director of the Citizen Media Law Project (CMLP) at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. “Some have no laws, some only concern particular times and places. And they all vary in terms of penalties attached.”
The CMLP compiled a chart explaining the rules in each of the 50 states. Some provisions come from formal laws on the books, while other states have issued other types of official written statements. Penalties range from a misdemeanour charge — punishable in some cases with a year in jail — up to felony charges.
If you used Facebook (FB), Twitter or Instagram to share your vote, though, you probably won’t be carted off to jail anytime soon. Hermes says he doesn’t “know of any court cases involving such issues.”
A few voters in states that do allow images reveled in their freedom. Rhode Island Alex Taylor praised his state’s “super-simple and low-tech” ballot with an Instagram snap of his choices.