BY PATRICK ROCCHIO | A bill to be introduced shortly by two Manhattan legislators may allow voters to take selfies of their ballots.
The legislation, to be introduced next month by state Senator Brad Hoylman and Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal, would permit picture taking in the voting booth, something that is currently prohibited in New York State.
Hoylman — whose district stretches from Hudson Square to the East Village and Upper West Side — said the idea for the legislation came from photos of celebrities’ ballots that were circulated on social media on Election Day.
Specifically, concerns arose about a selfie of singer Justin Timberlake voting in Tennessee — one of 18 states, along with New York, that ban such photos — said the senator.
“The law in New York currently prohibits voters from taking photos of their ballots,” said Hoylman. He added that the law originated as a protection against employers pressuring or coercing employees to support certain political positions or candidates.
With the advent of social media, the senator believes the regulation needs to be updated.
“Technology has changed and social media is a way of a lot of us communicate,” Hoylman said. “The idea of employee coercion, I think, is an anachronism. Certainly, the bill that we are going to be introducing shortly is going to remove the prohibition against ballot photographs but maintain the protection against intimidation or coercion.”
The senator believes that social media is a way to engage voters, especially younger voters, in the democratic process.
Rosenthal agrees, saying that millennials are definitely using social media like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or Snapchat for their communications.
The assemblymember, who represents the Upper West Side, feels that posting pictures of ballots on social media could encourage discussion of politics and related issues.
“First of all, so much of civic dialogue either starts or is present on social media,” Rosenthal noted. “That is increasingly how people discuss world and state events.
“I thought that the prohibition of taking photos of the ballot was just a throwback to another time when there were different needs,” she added.
She believes that if people want to advertise the fact that they voted, there is no need to stop them.
Many people who are not knowledgeable of the law, though, are taking selfies of their ballots and posting them online currently.
Rosenthal stated that the law against voting photography is 126 years old.
She believes the bill can pass.
Rosenthal’s colleague, Bronx Assemblymember Michael Benedetto, had a lukewarm reaction to the idea, though.
He said his concern is that people posing for selfies while voting may bog down the process.
“We are going to have people taking selfies while they vote, which will slow things down even more,” Benedetto predicted.
“While I don’t object to the bill,” he said, “I am a little unsettled as to what the consequences may be.”