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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Instagram users post photos of their ballots, which is illegal in many states

Like they do with their breakfasts, pets and children on any other day, thousands of voters took to Instagram on Election Day to post photos of their ballots. But unlike your filtered pet pictures, photographing your ballot and sharing it with others is likely illegal.

According to the Citizen Media Law Project, which has been documenting the 2012 vote, the laws vary by state. In New York, for example, anyone who "keeps any memorandum of anything occurring within the booth; or directly or indirectly, reveals to another the name of any candidate voted for by such voter; or shows his ballot after it is prepared for voting, to any person so as to reveal the contents" is guilty of a misdemeanor.
But Florida, Kentucky, Nevada, Texas and West Virginia "expressly prohibit the use of photographic and recording equipment inside polling places."
Dallas TV news reporter Jason Whitely was among the daredevils to snap and share his ballot, but he quipped on Instagram, "If I'm not reporting at 10:00p tonight, you'll know they came to get me!"
But in other states, such as Wyoming, there are no laws against documenting your ballot.
"Virtually all of these laws are older laws that predate the current technology," Jeffrey Hermes, author of the Citizen Media Law Project's guide, told ProPublica. "[But] it is easy to imagine situations in which the thoughtless posting of a marked ballot on Facebook could result in negative consequences."
Nonetheless, a lot of people are doing just that. According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 22 percent of registered voters said they would let others know how they voted on social networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter.
And according to All Things Digital, a search for "#vote" in Instagram's Explore tab turned up more than 460,000 photo results on Tuesday morning.
A search for the same term returned more than 600,000 results on Tuesday afternoon.

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