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Pull Lever, Don't Snap Shutter: It May Be Illegal To Post Your Ballot 383

Posted by timothy
from the underground-ballot-parties dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Proud voters are already posting their ballots on Instagram but ProPublica's Lois Beckett reports that you may want to check your state laws first since showing your marked ballot to other people is actually illegal in many states."
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Pull Lever, Don't Snap Shutter: It May Be Illegal To Post Your Ballot

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  • Katy Perry's Dress (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @11:37AM (#41894763)

    I wonder if she will be arrested as she had hers printed on her rubber dress.

    http://www.webpronews.com/katy-perry-skintight-ballot-dress-hits-election-rallies-2012-11

  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @11:38AM (#41894777) Homepage

    If you can prove how you voted, to anybody, you can demonstrate to some interested third party that you voted the way they wanted you to. Which means you could sell your vote, or be coerced into voting a certain way.

    That's also why any voting proposals that involve a receipt showing that your vote for Smith rather than Jones are a bad idea, as are any proposals involving a way to look up your own vote online after the election.

    • by mrjimorg (557309) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @11:45AM (#41894903) Homepage
      Wish I could mod this up. Absolutely right - especially when unions get involved. Or abusive spouses. Or that pastor who drives you to the polls. Just too many ways this can be abused. Having said that, it does make it difficult to audit the system - how can you be sure that the machine isn't switching your vote after you leave? Ideally, people would be able to go back some other time and confirm that the vote they cast was in the system correctly. I think the only way to do this would be to allow you to go to a secure facility where you could confirm, in private, how you voted and insure that at least your vote was correctly accepted
      • by Nadaka (224565) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @11:52AM (#41895019)

        The way you make sure the machine does not switch your vote after you leave is that the machine prints out a prefilled paper ballot for you that is exactly the same as a paper ballot. And this paper ballot can be visually verified and validated normally before it goes into the same pile as all the other ballots to be counted normally.

        • by cdrguru (88047) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @12:43PM (#41895805) Homepage

          What language is this paper ballot printed in? English? Or the language the person selected when requesting a ballot?

          You see, the US does not have an official language that is used for all government interaction like many other countries have. Partly because of this it is a requirement in many locations to supply ballots in any language the voter requests. This includes Navajo, Spanish, Russian and a whole bunch of other languages. This is one of the main reasons why electronic voting machines are required in some places. Printing ballots in obscure African languages was not going to happen.

          One way out of this is for English to become the official and only government interaction language for the US. Another is for all government interaction to be done in some electronic fashion with the screen displaying whatever language the user selects, probably up to and including Klingon.

          • by readin (838620) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @01:04PM (#41896047)

            One way out of this is for English to become the official and only government interaction language for the US. Another is for all government interaction to be done in some electronic fashion with the screen displaying whatever language the user selects, probably up to and including Klingon.

            Making English the official language is a good idea, but making it the "only government interaction language for the US" goes a bit too far. We still want to be able to interact with our government in various languages for purposes like dealing 911 operators, the police, and the fire department. On the other hand, making English the official language would say that a city or county can provide foreign language services if it wants to, it doesn't have to do so and can't be sued for not doing so. Services provided by the government should be required to be available in English, and English should be considered sufficient to say that the government did its job in providing the service, but there should be no bar to a government providing services in additional languages if there is a reason to do so.

          • by cayenne8 (626475)

            You see, the US does not have an official language that is used for all government interaction like many other countries have.

            This really is a serious problem...and we need to remedy this.

            It would encourage quicker assimilation into the greater American culture, if everyone new coming in, has a little more incentive to learn the common language of the country.

            It would be a benefit in those coming in, not a detriment or incentive to discriminate.

            • by jonbryce (703250)

              What about the actual natives of the USA who will be forced to learn a language used by one particular set of immigrants who arrived a few hundred years ago?

          • >

            One way out of this is for English to become the official and only government interaction language for the US. Another is for all government interaction to be done in some electronic fashion with the screen displaying whatever language the user selects, probably up to and including Klingon.

            Obligatory [xkcd.com]

      • by danlip (737336) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @12:26PM (#41895477)

        Of course if you are using a mail-in ballot you can show it to anyone you want before dropping it in the mail. They could even watch you seal the envelope and drop it in the mail for you. And mail-in ballots are becoming much more common and encouraged by the major parties.

        • by Obfuscant (592200)

          Of course if you are using a mail-in ballot you can show it to anyone you want before dropping it in the mail. They could even watch you seal the envelope and drop it in the mail for you.

          No, of coure that's silly. That could never happen. It would never happen. No spouse would ever fill out a ballot for his SO, nor would anyone sell an empty, signed ballot to anyone. Nor would anyone be a "helpful Hank" and stand near a busy ballot drop box, helping drive-by voters by taking the ballot from their car window and putting in the box (or saving it for later to modify). I live in Oregon, and that's the official policy towards our vote-by-mail system.

          Nevermind that there have been reports of p

      • If you have an abusive spouse, by definitiuon you're going to be abused regardless of what you do.

    • by LateArthurDent (1403947) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @11:46AM (#41894917)

      That's also why any voting proposals that involve a receipt showing that your vote for Smith rather than Jones are a bad idea, as are any proposals involving a way to look up your own vote online after the election.

      Looking up online later, absolutely. The proposals for a receipt, at least the ones I've seen, you may be talking about something else, don't allow you to take the receipt home with you.

      Basically, you vote in an electronic voting machine, it prints out a receipt that is human readable and you can verify, then you drop that receipt in the ballot box. The voting machine does the vote count, recounts are done with the paper receipts. That is actually the type of electronic voting machine I'd approve of.

      • by Hatta (162192) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @11:58AM (#41895099) Journal

        Basically, you vote in an electronic voting machine, it prints out a receipt that is human readable and you can verify, then you drop that receipt in the ballot box. The voting machine does the vote count, recounts are done with the paper receipts. That is actually the type of electronic voting machine I'd approve of.

        With one more stipulation: No Touch Screens. Use real physical buttons next to an LCD display, like we've all used on ATMs for decades now. Touch screens go out of calibration, leading to opportunities for all sorts of shenanigans.

        • by ackthpt (218170)

          Still casting my vote on dead trees with ink.

          and I hardly get much on myself in the process!

        • by flink (18449) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @12:16PM (#41895355)

          With one more stipulation: No Touch Screens. Use real physical buttons next to an LCD display, like we've all used on ATMs for decades now. Touch screens go out of calibration, leading to opportunities for all sorts of shenanigans.

          Funny thing about those old ATMs with the physical buttons: many times I'd walk into the ATM to find the screen had physically shifted in its housing so those nice physical buttons no longer matched up with the on screen choices. In fact it wasn't uncommon for the buttons to be exactly between the choices. Other times the actual display would be set back and behind such a thick layer of shatter-proof glass that what button lined up with what choice depended on your viewing angle.

          The point is that *any* voting machine is going to need proper calibration. A touch screen as an input modality isn't necessarily bad, but you can botch the implementation just like with any other tech.

        • by danlip (737336)

          I keep hearing all the news about touch screens being out of calibration. I have a 2 years old iPhone with no problems. Has anyone had calibration problems with their smart phone? I think there is a problem with shitty programming, but I doubt it really has anything to do with touch screens, and machines with physical buttons can have shitty programming (or deliberately corrupt programming) as well.

        • And buttons can be rewired. Your point?

      • by RobinH (124750)
        The good ideas are doing it the way you describe, but there was a TED talk by a guy who was pushing a voting system where you got a receipt and you could log in and check that it was counted. I can't remember if you could check which way you voted, but I think so.
      • by Belial6 (794905) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @12:10PM (#41895251)
        I agree, but I would add one more stipulation. The human readable receipt should be printed on stiff paper and be machine readable as well. This way, third party auditors could recount electronically extremely quickly. A group like the ACLU should be able to walk in with a small card reader, and under official supervision, they should be able to recount all of the votes by just putting the cards in their reader and letting them run through.

        If the votes don't come out the same, it would make it much easier to track down legitimate technical errors, or shenanigans. Since they are human readable, anyone wanting a hand vote could still do it.
    • by The Rizz (1319)

      If you can prove how you voted, to anybody, you can demonstrate to some interested third party that you voted the way they wanted you to. Which means you could sell your vote, or be coerced into voting a certain way.

      So, you're saying that Congress wants exclusive rights to vote-selling?

    • by Nyder (754090)

      If you can prove how you voted, to anybody, you can demonstrate to some interested third party that you voted the way they wanted you to. Which means you could sell your vote, or be coerced into voting a certain way.

      That's also why any voting proposals that involve a receipt showing that your vote for Smith rather than Jones are a bad idea, as are any proposals involving a way to look up your own vote online after the election.

      um, if you want to sell your vote, you can easily provide proof without sharing it on the internet.

      These sort of laws are stupid, because they can NOT stop anyone from doing it, unless they decide to start searching everyone, confiscating cellphones, camera's, whatever before they step into the poll booth.

      In fact, I never considered selling my votes until I saw this article, now I'm like, fuck, i should be selling my votes. Capitalism at it's finest!

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by war4peace (1628283)

        *its finest.
        Yeah, Grammar Nazi here. Sue me.

        • by cob666 (656740)
          Parent is talking about selling his vote and you comment on his grammar?
          • by MitchDev (2526834)
            Not like your vote matters, Politicians say what you want to hear to get elected, then do whatever they want anyway :) Might as well make a few bucks on it yourself.
      • by Artraze (600366)

        > These sort of laws are stupid, because they can NOT stop anyone from doing it, unless they decide to start searching everyone...

        I don't like excessive laws, but there much worse things than laws that are philosophically sound but just aren't backed by heavy handed enforcement.

        And even still this law is helpful: If you aren't selling your vote and are instead being coerced, you can just make a huge fanfare of taking the picture to the point that the poll worker calls you on it. "Sorry, I tried to get

    • by goombah99 (560566)

      This is also why the afterthought attempt to "fix" electornic voting systems by adding a toilet paper roll printer to them fails. It's entirely possible to take a photo of the paper tape with both your vote and the marking that says it is your final vote. This is unlike a paper ballot where a photo of the ballot does not prove you submitted that ballot into the ballot box.

    • That's also why any voting proposals that involve a receipt showing that your vote for Smith rather than Jones are a bad idea

      You're completely correct up to here, but I kind of disagree with this bit. I think a receipt you take home is a bad idea, but a paper receipt you can review and stuff into a physical ballot box for use in situations when there's a discrepancy in electronic totals makes a lot of sense to me.

      • by RobinH (124750)
        Yes, in fact that's the only way you could make a trustworthy system. Sure, make it count electronically, but audit a random 3% of the polls by manually counting the receipts, and also audit any where the results don't match the exit polls, etc.
    • by Nadaka (224565)

      Then you have shit like this "interface error"

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=QdpGd74DrBM

    • by jxander (2605655)

      Wouldn't an anonymous posting venue like InstaGram be the perfect deterrent for coercion?

      I could show you "proof" that I voted a dozen different ways.

    • we already buy peoples' votes.

      don't you guys get it?

      money is embedded in politics. at the lower levels, its not nearly the issue as with the superpacs and such.

      low lying fruit is not significant. but the high hanging fruit is 'off limits' for the media and press. afterall, THEY (their radio/tv/print stations get ad revenue when A fights B on commercials).

      tl;dr: voters are not the problem.

    • The solution for this is that checking has to be done the same way voting works. By you going there, identifying yourself as you, then going into a booth where you're alone with the information, and where the same restrictions apply (i.e. nobody with you and no photography allowed).

    • by ackthpt (218170) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @12:01PM (#41895133) Homepage Journal

      If you can prove how you voted, to anybody, you can demonstrate to some interested third party that you voted the way they wanted you to. Which means you could sell your vote, or be coerced into voting a certain way.

      That's also why any voting proposals that involve a receipt showing that your vote for Smith rather than Jones are a bad idea, as are any proposals involving a way to look up your own vote online after the election.

      Let's just hand them a receipt with a checksum on it, which can't be decrypted, but can show whether vote was tampered with by some Diaboldical CEO who promised to deliver votes to a certain candidate.

      • by vlm (69642)

        Let's just hand them a receipt with a checksum on it, which can't be decrypted, but can show whether vote was tampered with by some Diaboldical CEO who promised to deliver votes to a certain candidate.

        Your receipt has ten random ballot numbers and votes on it. Each receipt is guaranteed to have a vote for each candidate. Only you know which ballot number was actually yours.

        Your receipt shows that ballot #10 voted for Johnson, published list on a website shows ballot #10 voted for Johnson, your receipt lists 10 ballots only one of which was yours, #10. You're the only guy in the world who knows ballot #10 is you. Feel free to look down the column of other voters to tell an intimidator your ballot numb

        • This is a well-researched topic and there are already good solutions. One way to do it is print a random number on every ballot (random for each individual ballot that is) underneath each candidate and have the voter copy down the numbers corresponding to the candidates they voted for. Afterwards, the codes that correspond to the recorded vote for each ballot are posted online and you can verify that the vote they recorded matches the one you wrote down. That way you can check that your vote was recorded
    • This rationale means that citizen votes that carry a little more weight than throwing a coin in a wishing well can't be "sold". But a senator/congressman who votes on something that has a much more direct effect can and are sold every day.

      Conveniently, keeping voters from having a receipt prevents them from verifying how (or if ) their vote was recorded. This suggests the question: Who are we more worried about, the people who want to pay us for votes, or the people who count the votes?

      If you're in the el

    • There are very cleverly designed systems that allow you to take home a receipt that will allow you to verify that you vote was counted, yet will not divulge who you voted for to anyone, so it cannot be used to bribe or coerce you.

      One example is Punchscan, a system where you vote by marking your choice on a double sheet of paper with holes punched through the top sheet so that you simultaneously mark both sheets. The top sheet, which has the candidates' names on it, is destroyed, the other is scanned and t

  • ... ballot marks you!

  • by Kenja (541830) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @11:40AM (#41894813)
    In many places it is illegal to bring any sort of electronic device into the voting booth.
  • In FL, if you enter the polling place and take a picture you're going to be talking to the police/sheriff. Well, if you get caught. And besides, the whole point is to have an anonymous vote. Put a damn picture of you and your "I Voted Today" sticker online.
    • by The Rizz (1319)

      So, you can show a picture of yourself with an "I voted" sticker, and you can type up a list of every single thing you voted on, and how you voted, but somehow a picture (that says it all faster) is illegal. Sure, that makes a lot of sense...

      • by jittles (1613415)
        I believe the point of it is to prevent media, reporters, mobsters and one else who may be interested in seeing how people vote. The ban is a blanket ban because you could easily pretend to be taking a picture of yourself when you snap a picture of someone else. It makes sense. You can broadcast how you vote all you want, but there should be a level of privacy inside the actual room that you vote in. Note that the media and others are welcome to wait outside for you to come out. They just can't go insid
      • by Jeremi (14640)

        So, you can show a picture of yourself with an "I voted" sticker, and you can type up a list of every single thing you voted on, and how you voted, but somehow a picture (that says it all faster) is illegal. Sure, that makes a lot of sense...

        Actually, it does make sense if there's a possibility that you might be coerced or bribed.

        The difference is that you can put anything you want on your typed-up list, whereas a picture of your ballot (to the extent that such a thing is hard to fake) would be actual evidence that you voted one way or another. So your abusive husband (or controlling boss) could demand the latter (and threaten punishment if you don't provide it) as a way to control your vote, but with the former you could easily keep control o

  • As it should be. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @11:43AM (#41894867)

    As it should be.

    Before people rant, let's make this simple, cut and dry.

    If I am allowed by law to prove who I voted for -- then people with guns can coerce me to prove I've voted for their candidate.

    This is about electoral integrity, not speech.

    Now -- to be blunt, it would be nice to be able to snap a picture of my ballot up until the moment I hit "submit" or "vote" or pull the lever. But never during or after.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by VortexCortex (1117377)

      OK, fuck. I'll play devils advocate. I put the gun to your head. I tell you to vote via mail so I can watch you fucking vote. Now what, dipshit?

  • It's not like our police force has the resources to enforce this. The worst that might happen is your picture is taken down for terms of use violations.
  • Apparently there is no need to prove who you voted for now, since you can't really choose anyway

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QdpGd74DrBM [youtube.com]

  • by a2wflc (705508) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @11:46AM (#41894927)

    Think of the emails we've been seeing that employers have sent to their workers. I think many of those employers would love to see how everyone votes. If showing your ballot becomes the norm, I'd expect "someone" at the business to start throwing a "we voted" party with a slideshow of everyone's ballot. You may want to keep yours secret, but "everyone does it" so make sure to send your pic to the party organizer to prepare the slideshow. And if you don't care about employers seeing votes, maybe you care about unions, churches, schools, bar owners, or neighborhood thug. Best to not allow proof of votes if we care about keeping them secret.

    • by OzPeter (195038)

      Think of the emails we've been seeing that employers have sent to their workers.

      I was in an Office Max yesterday and I caught a glimpse of an email/web page (not sure what) on one of their work computers that looked suspiciously like the company suggesting to the workers how the local ballot should be marked. It was full screen with large pictures of the candidates with green check marks against at least some names.

    • by roc97007 (608802)

      My grandfather had to do this, but it was a lot lower tech, and it was for his union, not his employer.

    • by vlm (69642)

      make sure to send your pic

      How do they know its your pic? Nobody pays attention to copyright laws, even though its technically a violation to upload someone elses pic as your own.

      Lets say you attend your church's party first, you could probably collect a pix of every conceivable ballot (depending on how narrow minded your fellow church members are), then upload whichever is appropriate for work. I suppose if the stereotypical neocon CEO demands everyone vote rmoney, and he gets 50 pix of Rmoney ballots ALL BIT FOR BIT IDENTICAL the

  • Not a problem (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Okian Warrior (537106) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @11:51AM (#41894997) Homepage Journal

    Although posting your ballot may be illegal, it's unenforceable as a matter of law.

    There's no way to prove that an image is your ballot.

    The state has to prove chain of custody. Can they prove that you actually took the image (as opposed to, for example, downloading it off the internet)? Can they prove that you snapped your actual vote (as opposed to taking a picture and then changing the vote)? Can they prove that you didn't snap a picture of someone else's vote?

    Can they prove that you didn't photoshop the image?

    Even if they can make a good case for chain of custody (a video of you actually casting the vote would take a lot of effort to fake), would the state actually prosecute? The bad publicity for prosecuting this while taking time away from more serious crimes (murder, rape) would be a big disincentive.

    There's also the personal freedoms angle. Certainly no one can be forced to prove their vote, but if someone wants to proudly show their vote, could this not be considered a freedom of speech issue?

    There may be some grumbling from government about this, and some websites could be asked (without a warrant) to take some pictures down, but that's about all that will happen.

    Government is powerless to prevent this, and they know it.

    • Thats why it is illegal to take a photo of ANY ballot, not just your own.

    • The state has to prove chain of custody. Can they prove that you actually took the image (as opposed to, for example, downloading it off the internet)? Can they prove that you snapped your actual vote (as opposed to taking a picture and then changing the vote)? Can they prove that you didn't snap a picture of someone else's vote?

      If the arrest you seize your camera, and find the picture on your phone, that is probably enough to convict. They don't need 100% proof, they need to convince a jury.

  • ...I would NOT trust the ballot.

  • This could be a good test of my first amendment rights. I'm in Michigan, I'm tempted to test this out. I'm voting Libertarian, so none of my guys are going to win anyway.
    • by roc97007 (608802)

      > I'm voting Libertarian, so none of my guys are going to win anyway.

      Nod. I understand. I am Libertarian also, and I used to do that. Now I spend my vote where I think it can do the most good, switching between the major parties as necessary to participate in key primaries. But that's a lot more work than just voting for whomever has a capital L after their name.

  • If we aren't going to chase down voter fraud or even implement the same identification requirements for voting as we require at the local DMV, what are the chances we're going to chase down people taking photos of their own ballot?

  • State-By-State List (Score:5, Informative)

    by guttentag (313541) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @12:02PM (#41895161) Journal
    Legal to Photograph Your Marked Ballot
    Alabama
    Delaware
    Maine
    North Dakota
    Rhode Island
    Tennessee
    Vermont
    Wyoming

    The Law on This is Unlcear
    Arkansas
    Connecticut
    DC
    Hawaii
    Idaho
    Kansas
    Kentucky
    Maryland
    Ohio

    Illegal to Photograph Your Marked Ballot
    All Other U.S. States

    Source [citmedialaw.org]
  • and didn't your parents pay any attention to you. all the kids these days seem to be attention whores posting look what i did crap on the internet for their friends to comment on and to show the world how important they are

    seriously, i learned about this in social studies. up to the early 1900's before the secret ballot everyone sold their vote. Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall were big in NYC.

    for all you dumb kids who think movies are like real life go check out an oldie called Gangs of New York. the main chara

  • It's not that posting the picture should be illegal, it's that you shouldn't be allowed in to vote if you're taking in some way of proving how you voted. I know that's a bit heavy handed, but any other way allows an employer or abusive spouse, etc., to force you to prove to them how you voted. At least this way you can say "they won't let me in."

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