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This is a follow-on question from Politics SE, wherein several participants claimed that it was illegal for a voter to divulge their own ballot choices. As this is purely a question of law, rather than politics, this issue is more appropriate for Law SE.

So, are there any US States that have made it illegal for a voter to disclose their ballot (voting) choices?

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    How could the 1st amendment be illegal? – BlueDogRanch Oct 9 at 18:12
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    @BlueDogRanch - there have been many state statues that have been passed and considered legal until challenged and found in violation of US 1st Am. I am interested in any state statues that prohibit disclosure that have not been overturned. But, yes, I see you point. – BobE Oct 9 at 21:26
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    There may be different regulations for you saying you voted X vs. proving you voted X. Note that if proving you voted X is allowed, this simplifies my efforts of winning the election by threatening to harm you unless you prove that you vote for me – Hagen von Eitzen Oct 10 at 11:44
  • See this Q&A here: law.stackexchange.com/questions/50709/… – user6726 Oct 11 at 5:15
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    @jcaron We're talking about voting, nothing more; read the question. – BlueDogRanch Oct 12 at 13:44
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Short answer: It depends on the state and exactly how you do so. Stating how you voted, by itself, is fine; however, taking a photo of your ballot instead of just saying how you voted is illegal in some states, especially if the photo was taken within a polling place. Laws banning these so-called "ballot selfies" may be unconstitutional, and have been successfully challenged under the first amendment in some cases.


There is not a general ban on simply saying who you voted for. This is an extremely common practice, and it is the basis for "exit polling," where voters leaving a polling place are asked whom they voted for in order to collect voting statistics to predict the winner of the election. This type of polling has been upheld by courts, and it sounds like laws banning it were primarily concerned with voter intimidation rather than vote-buying.

As of 2016, 18 states banned sharing any photograph of a ballot, while an additional 6 ban photography in polling places. The rationale for such laws is to prevent vote-buying, because if you can't take a photo of your ballot, you can't prove whom you voted for (whereas without the photo, you could simply vote however you like, then lie). However, at least one such law has been challenged in federal court and invalidated as a violation of the first amendment (in Rideout v. Gardner) "because it is a content-based restriction on speech that cannot survive strict scrutiny." If such first-amendment challenges continue to be upheld, it is possible that this practice will be legal throughout the United States.

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    So: (a) no prohibition on disclosure. (b) the manner of disclosure is a different issue and may differ between states. Right? – BobE Oct 9 at 21:20
  • @BobE That's correct – Ryan M Oct 9 at 21:37
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    @BobE The manner is irrelevant; the issue is the proof. (Rightly so, in my opinion -- the election is secret for a reason.) – Peter - Reinstate Monica Oct 10 at 23:15
  • @Peter-ReinstateMonica check out bdb484's answer below. It seems that the majority of courts disagree. – BobE Oct 11 at 1:48
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    @OscarBravo No, that would violate 18 U.S. Code § 597. – Ryan M Oct 12 at 12:50
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I don't know of any law that prohibits the disclosure of your choices on a ballot. It would certainly be invalidated on First Amendment grounds.

There are laws outlawing the disclosure of pictures of your ballot, but there is little remaining debate that these laws violate the First Amendment. New Hampshire's ballot-selfie law was invalidated in 2015, and the First Circuit Court of Appeals went a step further in 2016, making it illegal to enforce such a law anywhere else in the circuit:

Even accepting the possibility that ballot selfies will make vote buying and voter coercion easier by providing proof of how the voter actually voted, the statute still fails for lack of narrow tailoring. “[B]y demanding a close fit between ends and means, the tailoring requirement [under intermediate scrutiny] prevents the government from too readily ‘sacrific[ing] speech for efficiency.’ ” ...

New Hampshire has “too readily forgone options that could serve its interests just as well, without substantially burdening” legitimate political speech. At least two different reasons show that New Hampshire has not attempted to tailor its solution to the potential problem it perceives. First, the prohibition on ballot selfies reaches and curtails the speech rights of all voters, not just those motivated to cast a particular vote for illegal reasons. ... Second, the State has not demonstrated that other state and federal laws prohibiting vote corruption are not already adequate to the justifications it has identified. ... New Hampshire suggests that it has no criminal statute preventing a voter from selling votes. That can be easily remedied without the far reach of this statute. The State may outlaw coercion or the buying or selling of votes without the need for this prohibition.

Rideout v. Gardner, 838 F.3d 65, 74 (1st Cir. 2016)

Michigan has agreed to stop enforcing its ballot selfie law, and Indiana has been permanently enjoined from enforcing its law. New York did survive a challenge to its law, but that one is generally considered an outlier.

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    Thanks for the New York citation, read through the whole and, yes it is probably an outlier. The argument used by the defendants that vote buying would increase significantly is particularly interesting in that today (3 years later) actual data/cases from other states might undercut that theory. OTOH, perhaps NY has a unique problem with vote buyers that other states do not. – BobE Oct 10 at 4:49
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Since the mod welcomes answers from other jurisdictions a short note on the situation in Germany.

In 2017, the head of the federal election commission ("Bundeswahlleiter") filed charges against several persons who took selfies of their mail-in ballots in their homes and published them.

He referred to §107c of the penal code that forbids to violate regulations serving the secrecy of the election by disclosing how somebody voted. He argued that "somebody" includes oneself, an opinion not shared by the prosecutor who consequently dropped the charges. A link to that story, in German, is here.

Taking pictures in the voting booth is unmistakably forbidden though.

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    Interesting but not germane to the question- thanks for participating – BobE Oct 12 at 14:17
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    @BobE Yes, true. I wouldn't have written the answer if feetweet had not explicitly said that answers about other jurisdictions were "not unwelcome" ;-). At the end of the day the question may profit from a more global context, even if it is actually about the U.S. As an aside, I was surprised about the ambiguity and prosecutor's interpretation of the German law; I would have thought it was clearly forbidden to prove how you voted, and for the reasons discussed (it facilitates reliable vote-buying). I'm also surprised that it is not forbidden in most of the U.S. – Peter - Reinstate Monica Oct 12 at 14:33
  • The problem with the vote-buying argument is that, in US court cases after court cases, where the vote-buying argument is raised, the lawyers have not been able to actually demonstrate that significant vote-buying occurs in the jurisdictions where voters are not prohibited to divulge their vote-choices. Theoretically it's a argument, but unless it's shown to be a practical problem (with evidence), it remains a theory. – BobE Oct 12 at 17:52
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In the UK, it's a crime to take any photographs or images inside the polling station. Photographing a ballot paper is a big no-no. Although prosecutions to my knowledge are extremely rare and you would realistically probably just get a telling-off from the police. Unless you did something really egregious like walk around a polling station photographing all the ballot papers in sight and posting them on Twitter or something as crazy as that.

Of course, you're allowed to tell people how you voted.

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    Thank you for the international perspective, however the question is specific to the US – BobE Oct 9 at 21:04
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    This answer is wrong. It is not illegal to take photos inside a polling station. Perhaps you are thinking of Section 66 of the Representation of the People Act 1983 which requires polling station participants to maintain secrecy in relation to certain matters. It is entirely possible to take a photo inside a polling station without breaching those requirements. The confusion possibly stems from the fact that the Electoral Commission recommends no photography, and you will typically see "no photography" signs at stations. But that doesn't mean you commit a crime per se if you do so. – JBentley Oct 12 at 12:29
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    More generally, it is a good idea to always provide legal authority for points of law. In this way you make your answer more useful, and you're less likely to include inaccuracies or misunderstandings. – JBentley Oct 12 at 12:30

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