Ballot selfie ban upheld by judge in New York

ALBANY - Selfies with completed ballots will remain illegal in New York this Election Day.

A federal judge in Manhattan on Thursday ruled against three voters who sought to invalidate New York's law prohibiting voters from showing their ballot after it has been completed, a misdemeanor crime that is rarely enforced but remains on the books.

U.S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel found the state law does not infringe on the voters' First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

The law, which was crafted more than 120 years ago, is meant to deter "vote buying," in which voters would show their completed ballots to someone who was paying them to vote a certain way.

"The State of New York has a compelling interest in preventing vote buying and voter coercion," Castel wrote.

"The State's interest in the integrity of its elections is paramount."

Voters Eve Silberberg, Jennifer Rebecca White and Michael Emporer brought the case against the state Board of Elections, arguing that the law violates both the state and U.S. constitutions.

The lawsuit was originally brought in late October 2016, weeks before Election Day.

A judge rejected the plaintiffs request for a preliminary injunction last year, which would have allowed ballot selfies.

The case went to trial earlier this year, where Board of Elections Co-Chairman Doug Kellner testified that the state's laws prohibiting vote buying would be "more difficult to enforce without a prohibition on the display of a marked ballot," according to Castel's decision.

The decision does not prohibit selfies with a blank ballot. The ban only kicks in once a ballot is marked.

The crime, which is rarely enforced, carries a maximum penalty of a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

 

© Gannett Co., Inc. 2017. All Rights Reserved


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