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Voters: Don’t Instagram Your Ballot (It’s Probably Illegal)!

If you have an internet connection and a social media account, you’ve already read about quite a few of your friends voting today. “I voted” is not real news (just like 90% of the tweets and status updates we see every day), but we still think it’s a good thing: Voting is the ultimate sign of participation in our fragile democracy; we need to encourage more people to vote because turnout rates are depressingly low; et cetera, et cetera.

Most social media outlets directly encouraged users to somehow document the act: All sorts of related videos will soon flood YouTube, and an election day window hangs atop all personal Facebook pages instructing users to click in order to find their polling places or identify themselves as voters.

But we do hope our readers reviewed their state laws before documenting this proud experience today because…well, you read the headline.

Most voters probably don’t realize that several states expressly prohibit all recording inside polling places–and a clear majority prohibit the act of producing “photos or film of [your] own marked ballot”. A quick Instagram search for the hashtags #vote or #ballot reveals that quite a few voters have, in all likelihood, already broken the law this morning.

Will states crack down on these obscure prohibitions? Probably not. Will the laws prevent voting photos and videos from overwhelming social media today? Definitely not. But all voters should be cautious: While Ohio allows smartphones in polling places and some voting booths, one early North Carolina participant already had his device confiscated–and in Wisconsin the act of tweeting a completed ballot is a felony!

Well then. The more you know!

(Oh, and go vote if you haven’t already. You have no good excuse!)

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