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Michigan Ballot Selfies Ruled Legal in US District Court

Image: Michigan Ballot Selfies Ruled Legal in US District Court

A voter casts her ballot for the Michigan presidential primary at a polling station in Warren, Michigan, March 8, 2016. (Geoff Robins/AFP/Getty Images)

By Clyde Hughes   |   Tuesday, 25 Oct 2016 01:41 PM

In Michigan, ballot selfies are now legal after U.S. District Judge Janet Neff ruled Monday that Michigan's law against taking selfies with election ballots was a violation of the First Amendment right to free speech.

Michigan becomes the 20th state that allows people to take ballot selfies or has no law disallowing it, according to The Associated Press. District of Columbia spokeswoman Tamara Robertson said officials there would not stop anyone from doing so as well.

Michigan's case involved Portage resident Joel Crookston, who took a selfie with his ballot and posted it on social media not knowing there was a law against it and he could have served 90 days in jail and been fined $500, the Detroit Free Press reported.

"The court agrees with the plaintiff that the interests in the integrity of the electoral process can be secured in a more reasonable manner than the blanket prohibition on citizens' photography," Neff ruled, according to the newspaper. "The prohibition on ballot selfies reaches and curtails the speech rights of all voters."

The Free Press said Neff cited a recent federal ruling in New Hampshire allowing ballot selfies, which was upheld last month by the First Circuit Court of Appeals.

In that case, social media company Snapchat joined the fight by filing an amicus brief in support of a suit for ballot selfies originally brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of three people who were investigated for allegedly violating a then New Hampshire law against it, CNN reported.

New Hampshire officials said the law against selfies was meant to "protect the purity and integrity of the state's election process in light of the leaps and bounds of technology over the past century," and it should have the authority to do so, CNN said.

At the time, the New Hampshire state attorney general's office had not decided yet whether to challenge the decision in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Michigan's Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, through Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, filed a motion Monday saying that they intend to appeal the ruling to the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals and asked for an injunction against implementing the ruling until after the Nov. 8 election, the Free Press reported.

"Crookston would not be irreparably harmed by a stay," Michigan's appeal stated, per the Free Press. "He has ample alternatives to communicate about the content of their ballot and the voting experience, including photographing himself with his 'I voted sticker.'"

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In Michigan, ballot selfies are now legal after U.S. District Judge Janet Neff ruled Monday that Michigan's law against taking selfies with election ballots was a violation of the First Amendment right to free speech.
michigan, ballot, selfies, legal
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2016-41-25
 

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