A vote for ‘selfies’ in the voter booth
By Jeremy Berry
Voters in Georgia “Post the Peach” voting stickers for many reasons. We do so to show our pride in voting. We share pictures of our stickers after voting on social media to encourage others to vote. We post pictures of our kids wearing the “I voted” peach stickers to ensure future generations are aware of voting and the need to remain active in the democratic process.
According to the Georgia Secretary of State, this November’s election saw a record-breaking number of voters with more than 4.1 million people going to the polls, which was more than 76 percent of all registered voters exercising their precious right to vote and enabling them to “Post the Peach.”
We should consider two easy measures that would allow voters to show even more pride when they vote in the next elections.
First, the Georgia legislature should repeal the statute that prohibits Georgians from taking “voter selfies” at the ballot box. Though Justin Timberlake presumably had good intentions when he took and posted a “voting selfie” recently, his actions might have violated Tennessee’s law against such photography in the voting booth. Similarly, Georgia law currently states that “no photography shall be allowed of a ballot or the face of a voting machine” (O.C.G.A. § 21-2-413(e)). Georgia and Tennessee are not alone: more than 18 states prohibit photography in polling locations, including voting selfies.
Recently a federal appeals court ruled that New Hampshire’s ban on voter selfies was unconstitutional, particularly when the state could not identify one instance of voter buying or intimidation related to a voter selfie. The Georgia General Assembly should repeal our State’s prohibition on voting selfies, and join the more than 20 states (including D.C.) that allow such photographs in a polling location.
Allowing voters to post pictures of their ballot or of people voting could encourage more people to vote and foster even more pride in voting. There is something memorable about voting for the first time or participating in a historic election. Imagine if a voter could document and share a picture of such a vote.
Second, we ought to redesign the “I voted” peach stickers to foster even more pride in voting and in our state. Louisiana recently issued its sticker for voters with a design that incorporates the famed blue dog from Louisiana native artist George Rodrigue. Georgia should follow suit. Perhaps the State could open a contest and select submissions from professional, amateur, and student artists.
Imagine if we had a peach voting sticker created by Steve Penley, inspired by the works of Howard Finster, or a design by a promising elementary school artist. We ought to modernize the Georgia peach voting sticker to a symbol that will further excite voters and ensure they display their stickers with pride after having cast their ballot.
These two fixes are easy – the “voter selfie” repeal takes an act of the legislature and the sticker can be changed by the Secretary of State, which provides the stickers to counties to distribute. While voting is fresh in our mind, the legislature and Secretary of State ought to take these simple steps to allow Georgians to show even more pride when they vote and perhaps even raise voter turnout in the next election.
Jeremy Berry is a partner at Dentons, where he focuses his practice on government contract and procurement issues, political law, governmental and regulatory affairs matters, and government and public policy litigation.