Post away: An election law voters don't have to sweat
WASHINGTON -- Scottsdale resident Ramsey Bergeron thought posting a picture of his marked ballot on the Web was a good thing, showing his support for President Barack Obama and maybe encouraging others to vote.
He quickly pulled the photo down Tuesday when he learned that some Web sites were reporting the practice was illegal in most states, including Arizona.
He needn't have worried.
Posting a picture of your ballot may "not be a bright idea, but there is no law preventing it," said Matthew Roberts, a spokesman for Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett.
But several Web sites say it is, citing Arizona revised statute 16-1018. It says it is a class-2 misdemeanor for someone to "show the voter's ballot or the machine on which the voter has voted to any person after it is prepared for voting in such a manner as to reveal the contents, except to an authorized person lawfully assisting the voter.'"
Maricopa resident Ashley Sherman said she posted a picture of her early ballot about three weeks ago, before she mailed it in. She did not pull down her photo, but said she's noticed others were criticized for posting similar pictures because of reports in major news outlets that it is illegal to do so.
"I've seen people actually take down their pictures of their ballots," Sherman said.
The Arizona law language is posted on Gizmodo, a technology site, and others that cited a report by the Citizen Media Law Project, a project of Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet and Society.
Project director Jeff Hermes said the information came straight from Arizona law, and he was surprised Tuesday to hear that the secretary of state's office was not enforcing it.
"By its terms, it would appear to make it a misdemeanor under Arizona law to reveal the contents of the ballot by revealing a photo," Hermes said.
He said the state may simply be choosing not to enforce the law.
"If it turns out they decided not to enforce the law in this manner, that's great," Hermes said.
Roberts noted it may not be an entirely bad thing to see voters posting ballot pictures to social media outlets.
"I guess in some ways, people are excited to take part of the electoral process and that's a good thing," Roberts said. "They want to share their votes with their friends."
That's what Bergeron was thinking when he posted his ballot picture to Instagram, an app for smartphones that lets people share photos.
"I enjoy sharing my opinion and seeing what other people have to say in return," Bergeron said, also noting he uses Facebook to share his political views as well.
He said he hoped to encourage people to vote on Election Day as well as to show his support for the president -- his ballot is marked for Obama.
"I'm proud of the vote I made, especially living in Arizona," he said. "There seems to be very few of us Democrats out here. I just feel that Obama handles the issues that are important to me."
A relieved Bergeron was excited to hear that he was not breaking the law by posting his photo.
"Now I'm going to put it back up," he said.