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Know the Law Before Snapping a Voting Selfie

Justin Timberlake recently Instagrammed a selfie of himself returning to his home state of Tennessee for early voting. That’s cool! Popstars gotta do their patriotic duty, too! But now he may come under investigation by the State’s Attorney General’s office for violating state laws about electronic devices and taking photographs in polling locations. Now, as of right now, it’s just under review. If there’s enough to launch an investigation they will. Voting is serious business.

If you’re like me, you’re all over social media with Facebook and FB Live, Twitter, Instagram, Coolio, Snapchat, Pinterest, etc. There’s so many these days, that one of those isn’t even a social media platform, it’s actually a Grammy Award winning rapper. But it sounds like one. As with meals, package unboxings and sick workouts, you may be tempted to document every step of the voting process when you step into the booth in two weeks, but make sure you know the local laws before you do so.

Early Voting Begins In Utah
George Frey/Getty Images

NOTE: I am not a lawyer, so this is my own understanding, and should not be taken as a legal interpretation.

While Illinois, Missouri, and Iowa don’t expressly prohibit documenting or recording the voting process, there are some stipulations worth noting and following. State election code in Illinois states “any person who knowingly marks his ballot or casts his vote on a voting machine or voting device so that it can be observed by another person, and any person who knowingly observes another person lawfully marking a ballot or lawfully casting his vote on a voting machine or voting device, shall be guilty of a Class 4 felony.” So while you’re probably OK taking a picture of the ballot before and after it’s filled out, livestreaming the whole process is a no-no.

In Missouri, the statute (section 14) prohibits “allowing his ballot to be seen by any person with the intent of letting it be known how he is about to vote or has voted.” A blank ballot with no caption on your Instagram should be fine, but a filled out one gets into muddy waters, and could lead to a class 4 misdemeanor.

Up in Iowa, according to state code, phones and cameras are prohibited in the actual booth, but pictures can be taken at the polling location, as long as it does not interfere with the voting process.

To be safe, err on the side of caution, and just take a picture of your “I Voted” sticker when you walk out of the polling location. You still get to tell the world you voted, but you most likely won’t get into any legal hot water.

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