Federal judge clears way for November ballot selfies in MI

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A federal judge has cleared the way for Michigan voters to snap a selfie with their November ballots.

U.S. District Court Judge Janet T. Neff issued a preliminary injunction Monday, preventing the Michigan Secretary of State from enforcing a ban on photographing one’s own ballot and sharing those photos outside a polling place.

>>PDF: Ballot selfie ruling

The decision came in response to a federal lawsuit filed by a Portage man. Joel Crookston filed a lawsuit after learning that the “ballot selfie” he took in November 2012 ballot could get him in trouble.

Crookston said Michigan’s selfie ballot ban was an unconstitutional limit to free speech and new technology and social media required reasonable changes to the law.

In the 16-page case summary released Monday, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson argued that a marked ballot is not necessarily speech and allowing camera phone photos ‘facilitates vote-buying and coercion… as well as more subtle forms of vote intimidation,’ infringing on the rights of other voters.

Neff sided with Crookston, ruling his rights could be harmed if a temporary injunction was not immediately issued, and that the integrity of the election could be protected without a sweeping prohibition.

Michigan has had a ban on taking pictures in voting booths and polling places on the books since 1891. The law was previously updated to say “Persons shall not use video cameras, cell phone cameras or video recording, cameras, television or recording equipment in the polling place.”

There are laws against sharing any photo of your ballot in 17 other states, while six other states bar photography in polling places but do allow photos of mail-in ballots, according to The Associated Press.