A few hours after the polls opened on Tuesday, Nov. 6, social media began to buzz with a new question: Is it illegal to post photos of your completed ballot on Instagram or Twitter? Posting photos online has been a pretty day-to-day part of our lives since MySpace was cool, but only after the introduction of Instagram have young people felt compelled to photograph every tiny detail — from the way our Starbucks barista misspells our names to the cool graffiti we pass on the way to… well, let’s be honest, Starbucks.
For some people, snapping a pic of their ballot or their voting machine after checking the box for Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, or Roseanne Barr seemed only natural. After all, we photograph our manicures and our food and our sleeping cats — so why not document ourselves exercising our rights, right?
Displaying your completed ballot — whether you’re showing it to your friend at the polling place or tweeting it — is illegal in many states. This is in order to prevent either party from “buying” votes and asking people to prove which way they voted in order to receive payment. Penalties vary from state to state. In Colorado, for example, displaying your ballot can result in up to $1000 in fines or up to a year in jail. Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, and Texas prohibit using photography or recording devices in a polling place, period.
Of course, officials aren’t going to sign onto Instagram, look for a photo of your ballot, and hunt you down — and displaying your completed ballot absolutely does not negate your vote, so any rumors you heard on Twitter to that effect are false. Again — your vote will not be voided if you posted a pic.
You are allowed to photograph and share your ballot in some states, specifically Alabama, Delaware, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont, and Wyoming.