Last fall, in a Journal Star article, Secretary of State John Gale declared, under his interpretation, current statute bans the ballot selfies – you know, the picture you take with your ballot, then choose a filter and post to instagram, snapchat, facebook, twitter, vine, reddit… am I done yet?
Secretary Gale took a statute passed in 1994 and applied to a trend 20 years later – the ballot-selfie. That statute prohibits a voter from showing his or her marked ballot after it is marked to any person in a way that shows how the voter voted. Violation of this statute is a Class V misdemeanor (a $100 fine). The purpose of this statute is to penalize the expected method of proof for vote selling or voter coercion – expecting to deter individuals with a $100 fine.
Two separate statutes exist explicitly penalizing bribery for voting and employer coercion/intimidation – each carrying a heavier penalty than §32-1527(4).
LB 787, introduced by Senator Morfeld at the request of Civic Nebraska, carves out a specific exemption to statute to allow for a “ballot-selfie” or similar social media post. LB 787 was heard before the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs committee last Thursday.
Believing the content of one’s ballot to be protected free speech, Civic Nebraska is aggressively advocating for LB 787 to ensure excited voters are not penalized for sharing their thoughts and excitement on social media.
Every voter has the right to keep who they voted for private – in fact the Nebraska state constitution explicitly states the “secrecy of the elector’s vote will be preserved” – but like the right to remain silent, an individual may waive their constitutional right. And that is what a ballot-selfie is – a voter voluntarily waiving their right to privacy, instead invoking their right to free speech.
LB 787 retains the language prohibiting voter selling and voter coercion, carving out an exemption to the Class V misdemeanor only in those instances where an individual voluntarily, i.e. under no coercion, takes a picture of their marked ballot and distributes it in such a way that others may see the marked ballot, i.e. social media.
This bill protects free speech and a voter’s right to share the content of their ballots. It is common sense legislation that eliminates unnecessary penalties and removes unconstitutional restrictions on your First Amendment rights.
Tell your state senator to vote #Yeson787