U.S. News

U.S. top court won't revive New Hampshire ballot 'selfie' ban

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected New Hampshire’s bid to revive a state law barring voters from taking “selfie” photos with their ballots during elections that a lower court struck down as a violation of free speech rights.

New Hampshire banned such selfies in 2014, saying the photos could set the stage for a return of the kind of vote-buying or voter intimidation that was rampant in the 19th century.

The Supreme Court declined to hear the state’s appeal of a ruling by the Boston-based 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last September that the law ran afoul of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, which guarantees free speech. The state cannot curtail speech based on a hypothetical danger, the appeals court stated.

Ballot selfies have become a popular way for voters to show support for favored candidates through postings on social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat.

Three New Hampshire residents who were under investigation for violating the law, including a man who wrote in the name of his dog to express dismay at his choices in the 2014 Republican primary for the U.S. Senate, sued the state that year claiming the measure violated the First Amendment.

The 1st Circuit agreed last year, noting that New Hampshire had no complaints of vote-buying or evidence that people were being coerced to vote a certain way.

New Hampshire’s secretary of state, William Gardner, appealed to the Supreme Court, noting that 18 states had laws that in some form prevented voters from displaying their ballots.

Digital photography and social media could allow an invasion of the sanctity of the voting booth and “eliminate the anonymity of the secret ballot,” Gardner said. “With recent advances in technology, one’s right to vote freely without fear of retaliation is in jeopardy,” Gardner added.

Some states, including nearby Rhode Island, have passed laws explicitly allowing ballot selfies, reasoning in part that the trend has helped younger voters show their enthusiasm for the democratic process.

Reporting by Andrew Chung; Editing by Will Dunham; Editing by Will Dunham