“Why the Selfie is a Threat to Democracy”

I have written this commentary for Reuters Opinion.

What could be more patriotic in our narcissistic social-media age than posting a picture of yourself on Facebook with your marked ballot for president? Show off your support for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) or former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.  Last week, a federal court in New Hampshire struck down that state’s ban on ballot selfies as a violation of the First Amendment right of free-speech expression.

That might seem like a victory for the American Way. But the judge made a huge mistake because without the ballot-selfie ban, we could see the reemergence of the buying and selling of votes — and even potential coercion from employers, union bosses and others.

The case is more fallout from the Supreme Court’s surprising blockbuster decision of Reed v. Town of Gilbert.  The piece concludes:

Barbadoro also said the law was not narrowly tailored, given that nothing would stop someone from posting on Facebook, or elsewhere, information about how he or she voted. What this analysis misses is that a picture of a valid voted ballot, unlike a simple expression of how someone voted, is unique in being able to prove how someone voted.

Indeed, it is hard to imagine a more narrowly tailored law to prevent vote buying. Tell the world you voted for Trump! Use skywriting. Scream it to the heavens. We just won’t give you the tools to sell your vote or get forced to vote one way or another.

The social-media age gives people plenty of tools for political self-expression. New Hampshire’s law is a modest way to make sure that this patriotic expression does not give anyone the tools to corrupt the voting process. Perhaps the judges of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals or the U.S. Supreme Court will see the error of Barbadoro’s ways.

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