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On September 28, 2016, U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled that a New Hampshire law banning voters from taking selfies with their ballots in the voting booth was unconstitutional.

N.H. Rev. Stat. § 659:35 was held unconstitutional by the Judges’ decision in Rideout v. Gardner , Court of Appeals, 1st Circuit 2016. New Hampshire argued “that the statute is justified as a prophylactic measure to prevent new technology from facilitating future vote buying and voter coercion.” But Circuit Judge Lynch opined that “New Hampshire may not impose such a broad restriction on speech by banning ballot selfies in order to combat an unsubstantiated and hypothetical danger.”

What of the law in Massachusetts?

In 2012, the Digital Media Law Project (DMLP) indexed state law that addressed “Documenting the Vote.” DMLP’s compendium of Massachusetts law on the subject, in part, pointed to MGL c.  56 § 25 which says “Whoever . . . allows the marking of his ballot to be seen by any person for any purpose not authorized by law . . . shall be punished by imprisonment for not more than six months or by a fine of not more than one hundred dollars.”

The law might serve to discourage Massachusetts voters from taking selfies in the voting booth. We might also be dealing with a developing area of the law, as technology changes how we live.

For more on how to vote, the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Elections Division has outlined “The Voting Process” for the Massachusetts electorate.  Massachusetts Law about Elections and Voting provides access to the law itself.

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