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Snapchat Fights For Your Right To Selfie From The Voting Booth
The people who brought you puking rainbow filters and realtime face-swapping are now fighting for your right to take pictures from the polls. Yes, we're talking about Snapchat.The Los Angeles Business Journal reports that the Venice-based social media giant has entered the legal battle over "ballot selfies," filing an amicus brief in a New Hampshire appeals case.
Taking a picture of a marked ballot from a voting booth is a triumphant act. It's a celebration of our most sacred civic duty, and, as The New York Times put it, "the moment political talk turns to political action." It's also illegal in quite a few states, including California.
Last year, a federal judge struck down a New Hampshire law that banned voters from taking pictures at their polling places, but the state is currently appealing the decision. Snapchat filed an amicus brief in the case Friday, arguing that New Hampshire's position violated the First Amendment.
"Ballot selfies are the latest in a long historical tradition of voters sharing their civic enthusiasm—and their votes—with their social networks," the brief argues.
Laws banning photography in voting places were originally put in place to avoid voter fraud (officials argue that photography bans protect against vote-buying schemes), but many argue that election law has yet to catch up with the smartphone age. The Huffington Post reports that state officials "are often left interpreting outdated statutes and creating policies that are unevenly applied and confusing for ordinary voters to figure out," and that policies "vary not only from state to state, but also from precinct to precinct."
“Whether it’s a campaign button or a selfie from the ballot box, Snapchat believes that expressing participation in the democratic process is an important part of free speech and civic engagement that the First Amendment roundly protects," Snapchat said in a statement Monday.
As Lyndon B. Johnson once said, "a vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men." To which we add: pics or it didn't happen.
Sidenote: Here is Snapchat's legal definition "ballot selfie," per their amicus brief:
In its strictest sense, a selfie is a photo where the photographer is also a subject. But the term has also been used to describe all smartphone pictures shared online, including those here. See, e.g., Brakkton Booker, Court Strikes Down New Hampshire’s Ban on Selfies in the Voting Booth, NPR (Aug. 11, 2015). We use the term in this more capacious way, referring to any picture that could violate the New Hampshire statute as a “ballot selfie.”