Federal Judge Lifts Indiana's Ballot-Selfie Ban

Free speech trumps the protection of voting integrity in a recent judicial ruling.

by / October 22, 2015

Indiana is not allowed to enforce its "ballot selfie" ban, a federal judge ruled Oct. 21.

A new law that prohibited voters from taking photos of themselves with their ballots and sharing the images on social media was first opposed by the Indiana American Civil Liberties Union as an infringement of the First Amendment, and was then deemed dangerous by U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker.

In her 20-page ruling, Barker cited Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis’ 1928 warning that “the greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.”

“Over the course of the eighty-seven years that have passed since he sounded this warning, neither the truth nor the importance of his observation has waned," Barker wrote. "If anything, they have increased and expanded and, as is apparent from the issues before us in this litigation, assumed a new urgency."

The law was instated as a safeguard against voter fraud, to prevent organizations from coercing voters into voting a certain way and then providing a photo as proof.

The ACLU and Barker's ruling determined that the exercise of individual free speech was the chief concern, however, as the sharing of a "ballot selfie" was being undertaken primarily as an expression of pride.

“We felt, as did the judge, that is a clear content-based regulation of speech, which is unconstitutional,” ACLU attorney Ken Falk told the Associated Press.