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Federal judge won’t strike down limits on ‘ballot selfies’

Justin Timberlake flew to Tennessee in order to

Justin Timberlake flew to Tennessee in order to vote early on Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2016. Credit: INSTAGRAM / Justin Timberlake

New York voters who want to share snapshots of their completed ballot on Election Day would still face a fine or time in jail after a federal court judge ruled against a lawsuit seeking to temporarily suspend enforcement of a state law barring “ballot selfies.”

A federal court judge on Thursday ruled against granting a “preliminary injunction” that would have temporarily lifted enforcement of the law, which bans voters from sharing their completed ballot with others — including in photos posted to social media.

Last week a trio of New York City voters filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the law that as written. The voters argued that the right to post photos of their ballot was protected under the First Amendment right to free speech.

U.S. District Court Judge Kevin Castle, in a ruling issued Thursday afternoon, conceded that the pictures were “a potent form of speech,” but said lifting the ban so close to the Nov. 8 election would be “a recipe for delays and a disorderly election.”

Lawyers for the state and New York City had argued in court on Tuesday that temporarily suspending the ban would cause “havoc” because thousands of poll workers would have to be retrained just days before the election.

Under state election law, it is a misdemeanor for voters to share their completed election ballot with others. Violating the rule is punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine, according to the law.

The law was established more than 120 years ago as part of an effort to prevent the purchasing of votes, but Leo Glickman, a Brooklyn-based attorney representing the three voters, argued the law was outdated in an age where voters often share milestones on social media.

“We are disappointed because we believe strongly that the law is unconstitutional and declaring it so would not have required the . . . Board of Elections to alter anything in their election day operations,” Glickman said. “Nevertheless, we hope that going forward the Board will join us to uphold the constitutional rights of voters and increase participation in future elections.”

Glickman said the judge did not dismiss the case completely. The lawsuit will now proceed to determine a resolution “for next year’s elections and beyond.”


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