Your ballot selfie could get you arrested in these states. Here's where it's legal and illegal.

Editor’s note, October 8, 2020: This piece was last updated November 8, 2016, and some details may be out of date. See all our latest coverage of the 2020 election here.


It's Election Day!

You walk into your local polling place, grab your ballot, and enter a voting booth. But then, you decide that merely exercising the foundational right of democracy will not suffice: you must capture the moment, and share it with your digital peers. You take out your cell phone, strike a pose, and snap a selfie with your ballot.

Wait — were you allowed to do that? It depends what state you're in.

The Associated Press recently combed through the laws in all 50 states relating to the legality of taking a selfie in the voting booth. In 21 US states (and Washington, DC), it is perfectly legal to take a photo with a ballot. In at least 16 other states, it is explicitly illegal — and can earn you a fine or even jail time.

Why the ballot selfie is so controversial

Ballot selfies, however innocent they may seem, have become a heated topic of debate.

Proponents argue that the selfies are "good for democracy" and are protected under free speech. Moreover, the pro-selfie crowd asserts that these photos boost young voter turnout. Studies have shown that Facebook users are more inclined to vote after seeing their friends post about voting on social media.

Those in opposition claim that ballot selfies could "compromise elections" by encouraging vote buying. That is, a person who is being paid to vote a certain way can easily, and privately, prove she did so by taking a photo of her ballot.

As a result, America is divided on the ballot selfie.

Ballot selfies are contentious — and have even gone to court

There seems to be little in the way of geographical trends, but in general, many Northwestern states support the selfies, while the Deep South unilaterally opposes them.

A young woman takes a selfie with her sample ballot in Westchester County, New York, in 2014.

"I was doing this for years before I learned it was technically illegal," Nikola Jordan, a 33-year-old Nebraska voter, told the Associated Press. "It's all about encouraging other people to get involved in the process, to show it can be fun and exciting to make your voice heard [at the polls]."

Ballot selfies are now legal in Nebraska — but in other states, like Colorado, the photos qualify as a misdemeanor charge.

At least 16 states maintain that ballot selfies are illegal, but there is mounting opposition to these laws, centering on the infringement of First Amendment rights. For instance, an effort to ban the ballot selfie in New Hampshire was widely challenged — Snapchat and the American Civil Liberties Union even joined in — and was eventually turned down by a federal judge.

In most states, though, the laws governing cellphone usage and photos in the voting booth are still pretty muddy, and there is no specific verbiage allowing or banning the ballot selfie.

So if you’re feeling like you just can’t contain your phone camera trigger finger today, and want to ensure that you have complete legal freedom to do so, make sure to refer to the list below.

Note: This post has been updated to reflect recent changes in legislation, as of 11/08/2016.

*Note 2: We've been getting a lot of questions about the legality of ballot selfies in Massachusetts. According to the legal experts we spoke with, the New Hampshire ruling in September of 2016 also applies to Massachusetts.


Watch: Why red means Republican and blue means Democrat

A young woman takes a selfie with her sample ballot in Westchester County, New York, in 2014.
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