Capitol Alert

ACLU fights for your right to selfie your ballot in California

Taylor Huckaby shows off his ballot for the June 7, 2016, primary election in California.
Taylor Huckaby shows off his ballot for the June 7, 2016, primary election in California. The Associated Press

If you just can’t wait two more months for the so-called “ballot selfie” to become legal, the American Civil Liberties Union of California has your back.

The organization filed suit on Monday against California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, arguing that California Elections Code prohibiting voters from sharing their marked ballots is an unconstitutional violation of free speech.

Though 125 years old, the law has taken on new meaning in the social media world of 2016, where it’s increasingly popular to post a picture of your vote on Facebook or Instagram. The Legislature passed a bill this session allowing Californians to “voluntarily disclose” how they voted, but it doesn’t take effect until 2017.

Michael Risher, a senior staff attorney for the ACLU of California, said the organization wouldn’t have pursued the case if Padilla hadn’t issued a memo last month advising election officials that the law remained in effect. Risher said the ACLU first tried to negotiate with Padilla’s office, but he remained committed to enforcing the law.

Though there is no record anyone has ever been prosecuted for showing their marked ballot to another person, Risher said it could still have a chilling effect on what should be protected political speech.

“In this country, we rely on people to follow the law, whether or not they think they’re going to get in trouble for it,” he said. “People who would otherwise have taken a picture of their ballot and posted it to the web may not have done it.”

In a statement, Padilla said he supports the new “ballot selfie” law and will follow whatever order the court hands down.

“While sympathetic to efforts to accelerate the use of this new form of political expression for the November 2016 election, state law currently prohibits it and only a court of law can authorize such a change, especially one proposed on the eve of the election,” he said. “In the meantime, voters can still take a selfie of their ‘I Voted’ sticker.”

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff

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