Bill Would Allow Posting of 'Ballot Selfies' in New Hampshire

The House Election Law Committee on Tuesday heard testimony for and against the bill to allow a voter to take a photo of their marked ballot and post it to Facebook or another social network.

by Dan Tuohy, The New Hampshire Union Leader / February 5, 2015

(TNS) — Supporters say posting a “ballot selfie” on social media should be protected free speech, but the Secretary of State’s Office continues to oppose it.

“People should not be fined in this state, up to a thousand dollars for example, for (an issue of) free speech,” Rep. J.R. Hoell, R-Dunbarton, a co-sponsor of the bill, HB 404, said in an interview.

The House Election Law Committee on Tuesday heard testimony for and against the bill to allow a voter to take a photo of their marked ballot and post it to Facebook or another social network.

Other sponsors of the bill are Rep. Leon Rideout, R-Lancaster; Rep. John Burt, R-Goffstown; and Rep. Dan Itse, R-Fremont.

Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan testified against the bill. His office holds that current law protects the sanctity of the ballot from possible influence.

Supporters of the bill say the statute would continue to protect against alleged coercion or influence.

House Majority Leader Jack Flanagan also opposed the bill, which repeals a 2014 change in the law that prohibits “taking a digital or photograph of his or her marked ballot and distributing or sharing the image via social media or by any other means.”

Gilles Bissonnette, a staff attorney for the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union, noted the ACLU has filed a federal lawsuit challenging the legality of the state’s law against a voter posting a photo of their own marked ballot. The suit was filed on behalf of Rideout, and others, and the trial is scheduled to begin in late March, according to the ACLU.

Rep. Timothy Horrigan, D-Durham, sponsored that 2014 change. He said that allowing people to post photos of their marked ballot on social media “compromises the secrecy and decency of the ballot.”

Horrigan, in his testimony delivered to the House Election Law Committee, said it is not a free speech issue.

“You absolutely have the right to engage in as much free speech as you want to beyond the boundary marked by the ’No Electioneering’ signs,” Horrigan wrote. “However, the space inside that boundary is a secure space where the debate stops and the secret balloting begins.”

Rep. Pamela Tucker, R-Greenland, also opposed the bill. Rep. Bill O’Brien, R-Mont Vernon, announced last month that Tucker would serve as “floor leader” for the House Republican caucus.

©2015 The New Hampshire Union Leader (Manchester, N.H.)

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