- Associated Press - Thursday, January 7, 2016

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - A Nebraska senator introduced a bill Thursday that would tweak state law so that voters couldn’t be banned from taking selfies with their marked election ballots.

Sen. Adam Morfeld’s bill would allow voters to snap and share photos of their ballots after voting. Under current law, voters can’t show their marked ballots to others and those who violate risk being charged with a misdemeanor and fined $100.

The law doesn’t mention selfies, but Secretary of State John Gale has said it also applies to photographs including those shared on social media such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Morfeld disagrees, saying ballot selfies are free speech protected by the First Amendment and that they create enthusiasm among younger voters, a group that has turned out to the polls in low numbers through the years.

“I don’t want to inhibit people who are excited about voting from talking about (voting) and encouraging other people to vote,” said Morfeld, who’s from Lincoln.

State law prohibiting voters from showing their marked ballots to others has been in place since 1994. It is aimed at protecting voters’ privacy and preventing outside influence.

Morfeld said the law is “potentially unconstitutional” and that his bill specifies that selfies are voluntary and no one should coerce a voter to show his or her marked ballot.

In New Hampshire, a ban on sharing ballot selfies was struck down last year after a federal court found coercion and vote selling was not enough of a problem to prohibit free speech.

Gale on Thursday reiterated his opposition to selfies, saying they could cause “disruption and distraction” during the voting process.

“Until a similar ruling (to New Hampshire) is made that impacts Nebraska, or until the legislature changes the law, my position as chief election officer is that the taking of photographs inside a voting booth or space could potentially violate the privacy of others, due to the close quarters that exist in many voting precincts and county election offices,” he said in a statement.

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The bill is LB787.


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