A few days ago a federal appeals court overturned a law that banned New Hampshire voters from taking and posting selfies of their marked ballots. In Rideout v. Gardner, the First U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston ruled that the law violated the First Amendment, “[b]allot selfies have taken on a special communicative value: they both express support for a candidate and communicate that the voter has in fact given his or her vote to the candidate.”
In passing the law, New Hampshire had hoped to stop the threat of vote buying and voter intimidation. However, the Court determined that the law was too broad, and not narrowly tailored enough to just reach those voters at risk of selling their vote or being intimidated. The law was affecting all voters and hindering too much speech that is protected by the First Amendment, which is considered to be too broad. “New Hampshire may not impose such a broad restriction on speech by banning ballot selfies in order to combat an unsubstantiated and hypothetical danger.”
The First Amendment’s freedom of speech clause is one freedom that makes America great. It allows for open dialogue and discussion about topics and viewpoints that in other places in the world would be stymied by governmental restriction. The threat of punishment by those in power denies the vibrancy of debate and hinders progress, but here in America the people are free to speak freely and openly without fear of retribution.
Only a handful of states – Maine, Oregon, Utah, Arizona and California – have rewritten their laws to allow exceptions for photographs of a person’s election ballot to be shared. With New Hampshire’s law being struck down as unconstitutional it is possible that more states will join those above in modernizing the connection between voting and modern social technology.
The desire to take a picture and share with the world not only that you voted but for whom you voted for, is a relatively modern phenomenon. This change exemplifies one of the many ways that makes America great. When there are still places around the world where simply speaking your mind is met with handcuffs or even death, Court decisions like the one above remind us all how great and truly free America is. Being able to take a selfie and show your support for a candidate, regardless of whether they win or lose, is what makes America America. This ability to hold your head up high and speak freely without the fear of harmful backlash is what the founding fathers fought so hard for.
It is unlikely that the founding fathers could have even imagined how technologically advanced we would become in 200 years and impossible to know how they would have felt about taking a selfie with an election ballot. However, it is likely that they would want as many people as possible to exercise their right to vote next month, regardless of party affiliation. They fought too hard and sacrificed too much for people to not take advantage of the opportunities provided them.
Election Day is November 8; get out, vote and remind others to do the same.
The Gohari Legal Group represents clients in estate, litigation, business, real estate, immigration, family and bankruptcy matters in the state of Maryland. We are a small firm that allows us to provide clients with the individual attention they need. We bring our decades of experience in the practice of law to serve each client in a speedy and cost-efficient manner. We are headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland and serve Montgomery, Prince George’s and Frederick Counties.