Sharing ballot photos illegal in some US states

Last Updated: Wed, Nov 07, 2012 03:27 hrs

Washington: Hours before the polls closed in the US presidential election, some voters took to social media sites to post pictures of their completed ballots, which is illegal in several US states according to The Citizen Media Law Project (CMLP), a research center at Harvard University that explores cyberspace trends.

"Voting is a very private matter, and attempts to record at the polling place are subject to strict regulation to safeguard voter privacy, protect against voter intimidation, and to ensure the proper functioning of the voting process," wrote representatives from the CMLP.

Still thousands of Americans, apparently unaware of the law, took to social media sites including Instagram and Facebook to share pictures of completed ballots. On Twitter, #showmeyourballot was a trending topic, where even politicians posted photos touting which candidate received their vote.

But as word of the various state laws prohibiting the posting of ballots began to spread through social media, so did the misinformation.

"Don't post the picture of your ballot or anything its illegal and Obama lost 4 percent of his votes cause people are putting pictures up," wrote one Twitter user.

"This kid just posted a picture of his ballot with the caption #everyvotecounts well now yours doesn't cause you're a moron," wrote another.

While it is true some states prohibit publicizing marked ballots, there are no reports of states invalidating votes due to violations.

In fact, in the US state of Massachusetts, where taking photos of ballots is illegal, Secretary of State William Galvin told radio station WBUR pursuing offenders is not a priority.

"It's not a serious violation," Galvin said. "There is a statute that says you shouldn't do it and you shouldn't. We go to great lengths to protect the privacy of voters. However, we have better things to do today than pursue those types of cases."

Representatives from the CMLP told NBC news the original reasoning behind the law was to "prevent bribery and vote purchasing". The CMLP predicts in the future, as new technologies and societal norms continue to evolve, the law will likely be revised.

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