Politics

Can You Take a Selfie With Your Ballot?

Katy Perry did it, but the laws differ from state to state.

Two people taking a ballot selfie
Democratic gubernatorial nominee Tina Kotek takes a selfie with an employee of a local grocery store before casting her ballot on Nov. 2 in Portland, Oregon—it’s legal there! Mathieu Lewis-Rolland/Getty Images

Well, I guess we know who Katy Perry is voting for. The star posted a pic on Monday showing herself inside the voting booth and giving us a look at who she supported for Los Angeles mayor. My immediate reaction—isn’t that illegal?

It turns out Perry is fine, thanks to a California law, but rules on ballot selfies vary by state and become a topic of interest every election cycle.

According to the website of the National Conference of State Legislatures, the issue of “ballot selfies” has been a hot one since 2014. “The right to cast a secret ballot has been a mainstay of the U.S. system of governance for the last hundred years,” the website reads. “Voting in secret, as opposed to a voice vote that was more common in the early part of U.S. history, guards against coercion and bribery. And yet, ‘ballot selfies,’ where voters take a picture of their voted ballots and share them on internet sites, have caused the secrecy issue to resurface.”

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In 2018, Slate’s Molly Olmstead reported on laws against the ballot selfie, writing that “for the most part, those justifying any law specifically targeting ballot selfies point to the threat of vote buying and voter coercion.” Even if you do break the law in your state, it’s unlikely you’ll face major punishment. “Given that law enforcement generally don’t scan social media looking for violators of a law that bans something actively encouraged by other states—and that has a good chance of being overturned in a higher court—you’re probably not looking at any consequences for posting that selfie to social media,” Olmstead wrote. (Some people do get unlucky—a Wisconsin man was charged with a felony count of voter fraud for posting his ballot to Facebook in April).

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In 2020, Ballotpedia reported that about 25 states plus the District of Columbia allow voters to take pictures with their ballots. Many states, including Oklahoma, Hawaii, and Colorado, have essentially written the ballot selfie into law.

On the other hand, Arizona and Texas prohibit selfies at polling locations—the Lone Star State bars wireless communications devices within 100 feet of the voting stations—but do allow photographic evidence of mail-in ballots. If you live in states like Illinois, Florida, and New York, you should leave your phone outside the booth. (If you’re really dying to share that you performed your civic duty, maybe take a picture with your “I Voted” sticker instead.)

As for the L.A. mayor’s race, celebs beyond Perry are on team Caruso. Gwyneth Paltrow, Snoop Dogg, Kim Kardashian, and Chris Pratt have all endorsed the billionaire. Karen Bass’ fan base (and donors) include celebrities Jennifer Aniston, Tiffany Haddish, John Legend, Steven Spielberg, and Natalie Portman. And while many of them have taken to social media to encourage voters, Perry’s seems to be the only ballot selfie so far.

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