Ballot Box Camera

Claim:   It is illegal to take a photograph of your ballot and post it to the Internet.


Example:   [Collected via e-mail, November 2012]

I am reading on social media sites that it is illegal to post your voting ballot. Is this true, if so do you lose your vote?

Is posting a picture of your ballot a felony?

Origins:   Posting a picture of one's completed ballot on social media sites such as Instagram and Facebook has become a popular activity on Election Day. However, many who have attempted to do so have been warned away by claims that
taking a photograph of a ballot and posting such a picture on the Internet is illegal, which has prompted a number of inquiries from our readers about whether this is so.

The answers to questions about whether it is illegal to photograph a ballot and post the results on the Internet, and what the penalties are for doing so, are "It depends." Like most regulations regarding voting procedure in the U.S., the laws in this area vary quite a bit from state to state. For those concerned about running afoul of laws regarding photography and videography in and around polling place on Election Day, the Citizen Media Law Project's "Documenting the Vote 2012" pages provide some "Guidelines for Avoiding Legal Trouble" on Election Day, including a chart that lists, for each state, all the laws regarding making recordings inside of polling places and photographing ballots. A list summarizing those laws can also be found here.

A related rumor claims that those who post photos of their ballots on Facebook risk having their ballots invalidated:

Their is a rumor on Facebook that if people post their ballots on Facebook, Obama can lose those votes and he has lost 3% already due to folks doing so. Is any truth to this?

In some states it's illegal to display a voted ballot, and in some circumstances voters who do so might potentially violate laws that would theoretically allow their votes to be thrown out. Much of the law in this area is uncertain, however, and we're unaware of any cases in which voters have had their ballots invalidated due to sharing pictures of them on the Internet.

Last updated:   6 November 2012