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Ballot selfie can land you in jail

November 7, 2018

Voters are casting ballots across Illinois today. But don’t dare take a picture of your vote.

Snapping a photo of your filled-in ballot and posting it on Facebook or Instagram is technically a Class 4 felony in Illinois, which comes with a prison sentence of one to three years. According to the Illinois Election Code, anyone who “knowingly” casts his or her ballot in a way that “can be observed by another person” is breaking the law.

While more than a dozen other states also forbid the ballot selfie, Illinois appears to be the only one where the “offense” is clearly classified as a felony. But it seems no one on record has been arrested for it.

So why is this still on the books?

The intent behind the law is pretty straightforward. These sorts of rules are meant as a firewall against vote-buying: Show me a photo of your ballot, I pay you.

Of course, there are already plenty of other laws in Illinois that explicitly outlaw vote-buying.

Sangamon County Clerk Don Gray knows that social media is a valuable tool to help drive voter turnout, so he devised a clever workaround, setting up a red-carpet area of sorts where voters can take photos of themselves at the polling place and share their civic pride.

Gray still backs the ban, though.

“For me it’s not really about vote-buying even though there are valid concerns there,” he said, “it’s more about a disruption of being in a voting booth much too long.”

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